Category Archives: ceremony

Noah’s Box/Ceremony

This post was updated for inclusion in the Pregnancy Loss Week Blog Carnival .  Please join us at Fertility Flower for the week of August 23-27, 2010 where we will be featuring articles, posts and artwork about pregnancy loss.

I wanted to share some pictures of the box we buried Noah in and write a little bit about the ceremony we had for him the day he was born/buried. I also took a picture of him in it, but I do not feel like sharing that picture publicly. The box is a shaker oval carrier that my dad made out of walnut from a fallen tree on their property (my birthplace). My mom crocheted a little liner for the box and then a little coverlet for the baby. Mark added a sprig of lavender that he cut from our lavender plants (see significance of the lavender here). My dad added a wooden bead that he carved from a piece of a log that was once removed from their house (they live in a restored log cabin). He split the bead into two and gave me half to keep and put half into the box with the baby. (Have I mentioned how hard I was crying by then?!). My mom collects elephants and she added an elephant bead. I had a bunch of stuff to put in the box—a picture of the kids (the big brothers!), a “women healing the earth” postcard, one of my womb labyrinth postcards (the “I am opening up in sweet surrender” one), a scrabble tile pendant with a catch your own baby (that is what I had imagined for his birth), a goddess of Willendorf bead because I find images of the divine feminine very meaningful, a 2009 penny, a shell and rock from Pismo Beach, and last I put in a baby hat that I had crocheted, but that he would never get to wear (the postcards and the hat aren’t in the filled box picture because they covered all of the other items up).

The first picture is the items ready to put in and the second is of the box shortly before we buried it.

I did several readings while we were putting the items into the box and a naming reading. I was crying so hard I could hardly speak. Then we all put a handful of dirt each into the hole (the kids too) and said, “bye bye, baby.” Then Mark finished filling it the rest of the way up. We kept a rock from the hole for our labyrinth and gave one to my parents for theirs.

Later, I completed Noah’s Necklace using the beads that so many of my friends sent me after he was born. I also ordered a memorial plaque that we placed on the tree under which he is buried.

Noah’s Necklace

After my miscarriage, people kept asking my mom what they could do for me. As you can imagine, there isn’t a lot specifically TO do—but I certainly appreciated the people who sent meals and then a week or so later, I deeply appreciated having close friends who were willing to listen to my story. The WHOLE story, not just a “I had a miscarriage. It was hard, but I’m doing okay” type of thing. My recovery in the first week following the miscarriage was about the same as recovering from a full-term birth, only with lots more crying. I cannot overemphasize how much that Noah’s birth was a BIRTH for me, not “just a miscarriage.” The contractions, the physical progression, the “altered state of consciousness” mental state, as well as the coping skills mobilized were indistinguishable from my other labors. After it was over, I felt physically worn out and weak the way I felt after having my other two children. I also kept hearing my heart beat loudly in my ears while sitting up—if I was lying down, it was fine, but if I was sitting up for any amount of time my heart would loudly whoosh in my ears. I did not experience this after my other children and I imagine it is because I didn’t lose as much blood with them (and I still lost a lot with them!). So, having the meals come in was of benefit the same way it is during any other postpartum period—you do not really have the stamina to be up and cooking after having a baby! After two weeks postpartum however, I felt physically totally back to normal. (This wasn’t the case after my full-term births—I felt like physical recovery took longer and it was due to the tearing/swelling I experienced with them, which obviously wasn’t the same in birthing a four inch baby. Plus, with full-terms births, I had a newborn to care for and nurse and all the time goes to that.)

Anyway, when people would ask what they could do, I started having my mom tell them they could send me a bead to add to a memorial necklace. Many people sent beads/charms and they all meant SO much to me. Yesterday was the 3 month anniversary of Noah’s birth and I finally strung all the things people sent together into a “necklace” (it isn’t really wearable, which was never my intention, it is a string of beads). It took me a long time to make and it was a healing process. Also, I remembered where every single bead came from, even though I didn’t keep a list at the time (I have a list now). We hung the string of beads up over Noah’s “angel” birth certificate (which we also finally hung up last night).

Here are some pictures of it:

Birth Symbol

This is cross-posted from my Talk Birth blog. I have different readers on each and I wanted to share this in both places.

At the very end of August, I went to see Birth, the play in St. Louis. I was about 5 weeks pregnant at the time. Following the play and “talkback” event, there was a BOLD Red Tent (birth stories sharing circle). Right before the birth stories portion of the Red Tent, we did a birth art project. The Birthing from Within Mentor who was facilitating the Red Tent asked each of us to draw a symbol on a card that communicated what we would want to share with other women about birth—not in words, but a visual representation of the message we’d like to share. We then painted our symbols onto prayer flags to be strung together as a whole “language of birth” in symbols. We left the flags with her to be taken to births to share the symbols with other birthing mamas. I drew a spiral and explained that the message I was sharing was, “You can do it. You’re okay. Let it happen.”

A few days following my miscarriage in November, I received a Facebook message from the BfW mentor (and friend) who had facilitated the Red Tent session. She attached a photo of the flag I had painted during the Birth Art session and asked me to “allow the gift to come and sit with you” (as well as gifting me with “no response necessary”).

It was amazing to have my own birth symbol come back to “speak” to me in this way during such a painful (and also transformative) time.

“You can do it. You’re okay. Let it happen.”

Missed

As I noted a little while ago, I no longer have the feeling that I “should” be pregnant. It feels “normal” to not be pregnant now, whereas a couple of weeks ago I felt the loss of the physical experience keenly—that embodied connection—and I still “felt pregnant” for about three weeks or so following my miscarriage. I would have to keep reminding myself, “I’m NOT pregnant.” Now, I feel “normally” not-pregnant and I actually feel really good in my body and pretty good in my life. There has been a shift from “I SHOULD be x number of weeks pregnant” to “I WOULD have been x number of weeks pregnant.” Today, I would have been 21 weeks pregnant and it has been a hard day for me. Our family has a tradition of having a winter solstice party each year. We host at our house (my mom then hosts Christmas) and it is a nice time. We use the occasion to reflect on the past year and the things we’ve accomplished and then set goals for the year to come—things we’d like to “bring into the light” as it were. We also give our immediate family gifts to each other on this day. Anyway, I just really missed the baby today and also missed the pregnant-self. I felt really strongly how I would have been really looking pregnant by now and the baby would have been making himself well-known to others around me with kicks and rolls and so forth. I can’t describe it in words, I just really FELT it today. The non. The closed door. The two boys instead of three. It started when I opened up my set of Growing Uterus charts and The Birth Atlas from Childbirth Connection. I’ve always wanted them and I ordered them a couple of months ago when they had a wonderful deal. When they arrived, I had Mark put them away for Christmas. I didn’t think it would bother me to open them. I am still interested in birth, birthwork, and childbirth education. I’ve been reading other birth books and not having any “issues” with them, but opening the charts and seeing the point at which my own pregnancy and baby and hopes and dreams and plans arrested, was really difficult. The “cut off”/stopped/ended road point was right there in black and white and I had a strong and unexpected reaction to that. Later in the afternoon we went outside to go for a walk and also to place Noah’s memorial plaque. Standing there looking at it, I just MISSED him. And, I missed the experience of “would’ve” been 21 weeks pregnant–with my hand on my full belly, feeling my baby from within and outside, and having that communion and connection with him. I felt at the edge of tears for most of the rest of the day and just “down” and distressed feeling. I thought it would help me to write about it, but I’m not finding the words easily. I can’t explain or describe what it was I felt today.

As I mentioned, we use today as a time to reflect on our plans for the coming year. In past years, we’ve also each shared a wish for the coming year while lighting candles (the whole “even in the darkness, new light comes again” type of metaphor). In the past, I feel like people have tired of having to take turns saying too many things (we do the goal sharing and reflecting on whether we accomplished last year’s goal and some other things), so this year I just shared a little prayer—feeling like it summed up nicely what we each would wish for in the coming year:

Make me strong in spirit,
Courageous in action,
Gentle of heart,

Let me act in wisdom,
Conquer my fear and doubt,
Discover my own hidden gifts,

Meet others with compassion,
Be a source of healing energies,
And face each day with hope and joy.

(Abby Willowroot)

Memorial Plaque

Yesterday, the memorial plaque I ordered to put out by Noah’s tree/rock arrived. The image is the “proof” the company sent me via email, not the actual plaque. It is perfect. Marble, small, nice and sturdy. Price was good too (plus free shipping!). Even in grief, I remain a bargain hunter and I felt like many sites selling memorial stones/plaques for babies were taking advantage of people. I looked at all kinds of garden stones, garden plaques, etc. and it seemed like it was always around $100 to get one engraved and personalized and that seemed like a lot. Then, I found the handy site PlaqueMaker. It looked kind of like a fake site, but I decided to trust it and I’m glad I did because I got just what I wanted (and it was $28 total–including the engraving and shipping). One of the things that I most appreciated was that they send you a proof to approve before you have to pay or commit to anything. Isn’t that great?!

Other Readings

In addition to the naming reading, I chose two other readings from Singing the Living Tradition for the ceremony we did for Noah. Each of these jumped out out me as I was looking through the hymnal looking for readings that felt right. Each is originally a song, but I read them so they were more like spoken verse (I’m not a singer!).

The Leaf Unfurling

The leaf unfurling in the air,

the newborn child,

the loving parents’ care

these constant, common miracles we share.

All life is one,

a single branching tree,

all pain a part of human misery,

all happiness a gift to you and me.

The selfsame bells for joy and sorrow ring.

No one can know what the next hour will bring.

We cry, we laugh, we mourn,

and still we sing.

—-

It is Something to Have Wept

It is something to have wept as we have wept,

and something to have done as we have done;

it is something to have watched when all have slept,

and seen the stars which never see the sun.

It is something to have smelt the mystic rose,

although it break and leave the thorny rods;

it is something to have hungered once

as those must hunger who have ate the bread of gods.

To have known the things that from the weak are furled,

the fearful ancient passions, strange and high.

It is something to be wiser than the world,

and something to be older than the sky.

Lo, and blessed are our ears for they have heard;

Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen.

Let the thunder break on human, beast, and bird, and lightning.

It is something to have been.

I read the final one as we put the box into the ground. I chose it primarily because of the last line. The middle section wasn’t as apropos, but the opening and close said something that I felt.

Birth Certificate

A lovely organization based in Canada, Angel Whispers, sent me a care package following my miscarriage. They included a lovely birth certificate for Noah and a sweet little angel bear as well as brochures/information.