I have a friend named Stephanie. We found out we were pregnant in 2009 within weeks of each other. And I have another friend named Julie, who had introduced me to Stephanie. We found out she was pregnant first. We were over joyed that our little circle of friends would be bringing life into the world again, this time all together. Well, I had my usual doubts that I would make it all the way to life with a healthy newborn in arms, but I wanted to feel excited so I went along with the joy, and we were all swept up in a sweet storm of pregnant bliss.
Little did I guess that one of us wouldn’t be cuddling with a warm wet babe come spring, and that it would be my dear friend Stephanie who would bear this tremendous, life- changing journey this time.
You see, the year before the three of us had gone to a mother’s conference given by Sally Clarkson in Dallas, TX. We had stayed up late talking, and we had shared our hearts and our fears and our struggles. We all had great love and great life struggles. Maybe that’s normal when you’re in your mid-thirties.
I drove us home. It was a four hour drive in rain that was relentless, and deafening. There were times when we couldn’t see out the windshield. We nearly had to shout to hear each other. It was almost as if there was a dark force wanting to drown out the love we shared on that drive home. For on that drive home I shared with Stephanie the full story of our daughter Eve.
I told of my pregnancy with her. I teared up when I recounted the diagnosis of death we were given for her. I told the full story of my last weeks of pregnancy, of the days of laboring to birth her, in peace, at home. Of her flight to heaven on the wings of angels. Of cleaning her still body. Of dressing her. The pain of taking her to the hospital, to the officials.
And then, incredibly, of the homicide investigation. Few know of the pain in our house in those days. But these two friends heard of all the heartache on that rainy drive home.
In that car, I felt a kind of propulsion from within telling me I needed to tell it all to my friend Stephanie. But I thought maybe I was being selfish, dominating the conversation. No, they declared. They wanted to hear all I had to say.
Eventually we started belting out songs from the eighties. Stephanie knew all the words, while I just sang the words I thought I heard, since I have a terrible memory for details like song lyrics.
And then, with our bellies full of life, the email went round. Be in prayer. Might be something wrong with Stephanie’s baby.
No. No! Noooooo!
It all seemed so wrong, but also, so ordained.
I spent my wakeful insomniatic nights in prayer for my friend, for her husband, for her other children, and for that child. I knew where she was. I knew it in my bones and I hurt for her, as a sister.
In January, many of her friends flew to her new home in Connecticut to shower her with love. The love of a blessingway. We wanted to usher her and her sweet Amelia through their future with all the love a heart can hold. Some of us were zen, some quiet. Some of us carried our notorious talk of sex and the forbidden but together we gave her all we had.
And our small circle closed in tightly around Stephanie’s belly, lifting her up in prayer, in song, in laughter, and in silliness.
Seven weeks later Julie gave birth to a pretty little girl. Stephanie and I kept in touch, not knowing which of us would give birth first, and both of us praying she would be able to give birth to Amelia while she was yet alive. To have even a moment, a day, with her baby before she was to pass on.
On March 11 Amelia was born. Sadly for her parents she was born to Jesus’ arms before they held her in theirs.
That night I went to a concert at the new Catholic church in downtown Houston, with another mutual friend and her teenaged daughter. The friend was also my doula. Afterwards we went for a yogurt with yummy toppings.
The next morning, my doula and midwife came to my house to welcome our little Helen into this world. She was living, breathing, relaxed and the picture of a perfect home birth. A perfect young life.
And later, as we laid in bed, nursing, dozing I thought again of Stephanie and her empty arms, her empty womb, but knowing her breasts were full of life-giving milk with no one to claim that milk. And the pain was renewed.
I am happy that our daughters were all born so close in time. But to know that they will not graduate through life together is sad beyond words. And the pain my friend Stephanie must feel at the little stories, dramas, triumphs and moments of the daughters of her friends cuts deep I imagine.
Because even though I’ve been where she is in some ways, in many others I will never know where she is. The explosive nature of losing a child, of burying a child, of not ever hearing their name called out loud in the playground or the supermarket breaks each mother differently. And then it re-forms us. And even if the world never sees the child we bore, they do see the resulting mother, and that mother is forever transformed.
Sometimes the entrance into motherhood is grand and celebrated. And other times it is quiet. But it is always substantial and vast.
My friend Stephanie has poured herself into her art in the days since the birth and death of Amelia. We, as her friends, have always been tremendously impressed by her sense of design, of graphic proportion, or color. When we went to stay at her house for her blessingway we were greeted with visions of thoughtful loveliness around every corner, in every room.
I invite you to visit a little piece of her world, over at Beyond Words Designs.
Because the joy of motherhood is beyond words.
Because the pleasure of pregnancy is beyond words.
Because the sting of losing a pregnancy is beyond words.
Because the heartache of burying a baby is beyond words.
Maybe your heart has been broken, maybe you want a unique way to celebrate your years of motherhood. Maybe you know someone who is hurting. Connect them to Stephanie. Her artwork is healing, not just to her, but to all those who share in it.
Happy Birthday, Amelia!