On my due date

“Healing is impossible in loneliness; it is the opposite of loneliness. Conviviality is healing. To be healed we must come with all the other creatures to the feast of Creation.” Wendell Berry

Today was to have been my due date. “Was to have been”. The past future perfect. 20 weeks ago, Jared and I lost a baby, whom we had taken to calling “Baby Blue,” when I was 20 weeks pregnant. I woke up this morning thinking about this due date that was to have been, and I sat down to write, without a plan in mind. So here I am. Publishing these undrafted, unrefined thoughts.

I think today is a due date of sorts. I’m due to express the gratitude – out loud – for everything that has been just right in my life, for the kindness that has revealed to me that the underbelly of sadness is love, the kind of love that quietly simmers in past future perfects, the love that has allowed me to arrive at my due date and be able to say, “I am lucky” and really mean it. Wendell Berry writes, “Love is what carries you, for it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery,” and dog gone it, he’s right.

So on the due date that was to have been, I choose to be grateful for:

1. My husband, Jared, the love and rock of my life. I did not fully comprehend nor appreciate the strength of this man, his patience, his kindness, or his love for me until we experienced this loss together. I know the strength of my marriage only because I have seen it bear weight. I turn to Wendell Berry again to articulate the felt sense that my marriage began in earnest five months ago. He writes, “It may be that when we no longer know what to do/we have come to our real work,/and that when we no longer know which way to go/we have come to our real journey./The mind that is not baffled is not employed./The impeded stream is the one that sings.” I am grateful for this singing stream.

2. The family (my beautiful sister cousins, especially) and friends who have made me laugh when I didn’t think I had a crumb of joy left in me. I am thankful also for all of the people who shared with me the joy of my pregnancy. You know who you are.

3. A resilient body.

4. Yoga. Every time I’m on that mat, I remember how lucky I am simply to be breathing. Every inhale gives me strength, and every exhale grace.

5. Baby Blue’s fetal cells. It’s a fact that fetal cells stay in their mom’s body for decades after conception, even if the baby is never delivered. Isn’t that a sweet thought? My beautiful friend Laura turned me on to this RadioLab. Listen to this: the current theory is that a baby’s fetal cells remain with his/her mother to help heal her when she’s sick. Babies biologically tend toward kindness.

6. The ability to feel happiness for others again.

7. The perspective, born out of distance, that life – with all its unknowns, its possibilities, and its moments of grief and grace – continues.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

― Mary Oliver

–Sarah Barrett Olson

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3 thoughts on “On my due date

  1. What a beautiful poem, and what beautiful reflections on your due date that was to have been. I’m so sorry for your loss, but so glad that you are able to find so much joy and love in your life even at an extremely difficult time.

    Like

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