This post is written with prayers for all of those battling wildfires across the west, and in sympathy for those who have found their lives greatly altered by these horrific fires.
This is going to be a hard-stuff-put-into the universe sorta post. I am in a clearing right now y’all. I would love to tell you that the vision of this clearing is a peaceful meadow with rolling grasses, wild flowers, a stunning blue sky and the sun warming me, that I can hear the birds singing sweetly, and colorful magnificent butterflies gently float around me as I contemplate the amazingness of nature.
No, this clearing is more like what happens after a wildfire rolls through. Things are charred, spots are still smoldering, and little seems to resemble what previously existed. My wildfire was a mid-pregnancy miscarriage with our third child. This pregnancy was a complete surprise, and was going along gloriously easy, as my first pregnancy had. (Note: that pregnancy I was one of those women other preggo’s hated. I loved being pregnant, did yoga twice a week, never puked, and walked in to deliver in heels. Oh, and I paid for all of this with my second pregnancy which could not have been more different.)
At week 17 of this third pregnancy, I woke up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, like pregnant women do, and I was bleeding. I knew this was not a good sign. When I started to think about the last time I had felt the baby kick, it had been a bit. Being 17 weeks, it’s still a little early to feel things consistently, but I had felt a lot in the past three to four weeks. As I called the on-call OB and asked her what I should do, she confirmed what I already knew; I could come in through the ER right then, before dawn, or I could wait until the office opens in four hours, and call right away for an ultrasound, but that realistically, if I was losing my baby, there wasn’t anything anyone could do.
Fast forward 12 hours, after we had an ultrasound and watched the tech’s face that immediately told us things were not okay. Seeing our baby unmoving on the screen. Sobbing hysterically and being snuck out of the back door of the OB office, away from the waiting room and all the pregnant mama’s waiting for their excitement. Fast forward to telling our kids that we would be going to the hospital that night to have our baby, but that we wouldn’t be bringing a baby home because our baby was already an angel in heaven. To my youngest kissing my tummy to try to talk to the angel inside. Packing our bags, driving to the hospital, doing all of the things I did last time in active labor, but this time, with my heart hurting in unimaginable ways. The next morning I delivered our baby, a little boy, and after many hugs and more tears than I knew I had in me, we came home, empty handed, broken-hearted, and with my body doing all of the things women’s bodies do after they have babies, physical reminders of the constant, indescribably pain in my heart.
That’s the forest fire that led to this clearing. To be honest, I had been looking forward to maternity leave as a clearing, time away from my normal responsibilities to focus only on taking care of baby and myself. But now, I find myself in the ashes, unplanning all of the things I had planned. Discovering things that reignite the smoldering flames—finding another piece of maternity clothes that inexplicably made it through the sorting of things, seeing pregnant women every freaking where, running into people and only having tears. And there have been times of igniting the controlled burns, of keeping the raging fire contained all day, but settling into bed at night, journaling, reading a blog of a mother who also lost her baby just before full term, having my brother send me an incredibly powerful book about losing twins at 23 weeks, and letting the ugly cry out. Even in writing all of these things, I still don’t feel the words on this screen have done this journey, thus far, justice. There are not powerful enough words to convey the depth of grief, extent of sadness, and the effort it takes to interact beyond a close inner circle.
I share all of this because this is plan B. This is not the plan I wanted, chose or hoped for. I would give anything to trade this clearing for my baby, healthy and happy in my tummy, growing toward full term. But plan A is no longer an option. On one of the tough mornings, a dear, dear friend reminded me of Sheryl Sandberg’s experience after her husband, Dave, unexpectedly passed away.
“A few weeks after Dave died, I was talking to my friend Phil about a father-son activity that Dave was not here to do. We came up with a plan to fill in for Dave. I cried to him, “But I want Dave.” Phil put his arm around me and said, “Option A is not available. So let’s just kick the shit out of option B.”
I don’t want Option B. I’d trade anything for option A. But because there isn’t another option, I’m going to do my best, with what I have today, to start feebly kicking some tiny poops out of plan B.
Forests don’t choose to burn. But, in some cases, fires are necessary to renew the ecosystem. The burning brings nutrients back to the soil allowing new vegetation to spring up. If I remember correctly from middle school science, the heat even allows some seeds, like those in pinecones, to be released, allowing post fire seedlings to reach toward the sun. In some especially fire prone areas, plants adapt to be more hardy and less susceptible to fire.
Fires in our lives are inevitable. Some will be camp fires, small, contained, and easily managed. Others scorch the forest, leaving seemingly nothing in their wake. But beneath the ashes and char, there are seeds ready to sprout up and new soil ready to give them fresh nutrients. The next time you find yourself in a clearing, one you didn’t choose or plan for, look for those seedlings, the sprouts of hope that even in this devastation, something new is ahead.
Where are your fires? What seeds were released? How have you come out stronger, with new growth on the other side?