On Honoring Stories of a Body
This last wintery season, I nested in sacred space. I walked an island bursting of memory; I traversed a body of water, expanding of song; I spoke to the grandfather treetops, ruminating the strengths of their roots. I said hello. I gave greeting. I danced offering. I dreamt of new worlds, with others. In kin and kapwa, we shared fire, its crackling warmth; we tended, cared, for one another well.
It was the Bainbridge Residency; precious gift of shared tables, bread breaking, gray shores. It was soft laughter and gentle eyes within whose irises I savored myself reflected back, realizing near surprised that I have been seen so well. It is a holy thing to be in company of those that hold witness to one’s life, one’s breath, that recognize one’s humanity just as well or alongside their own. It is a grounding unlike anything else, proving that you are whole.
On the island, I thought myself to be with child. I had good reason to believe so; my bleed was so late, my body so sore. I had been longing for pregnancy for a long time, and I had no qualms with the creative disruption and the redefinition of my life that such news would bring. In many ways, I was waiting for it: this irrevocable shift and my entrance into a widening, unknown world. So when my blood came, not softly nor fluidly, but in urgency, an abrupt gush of my insides, it shattered in its force the chapter I thought myself to be finally entering. Suddenly, the story my body had begun to create, a fleeting thing — ended.
There is little to do with such loss, but take your small comforts. I walked into the rain and danced a sayaw of grief, a languid, stretching utterance, and felt the water like ritual, a cleansing of skin and body, and waited for the stories, overlapping the unfinished and the ended like waves upon a sea, to shore.
I write this process piece nine months later, having become pregnant, and having found myself, again, no longer. I wonder, what was it in that sacred, holy space that saved me from the stretch of such loss? What strength could I pull from it, having known this grief, this abrupt arrival of nothingness, before?
My losing was a long drawn breath; nothing like what the websites, the forums, the doctor had led me to believe. In my losing, I could not help but think of the movies that had sharpened into relief grief-addled women in blood-tinged bathrooms, a red swathed site, a story terminating its possibility in the most concrete of terms, a body determined, in process, of excavating itself. Even now, or especially now, as my body has been confirmed as empty, as the ending has finally ended, it is hard for me to understand that I had suddenly become one of them, that this reality is most clear in my trembling palms, in my reaching, careful fingers, to scoop what was my baby trying to become something, become alive, become mine. There was no logic in such messy claiming; it was a simple thing: I wanted my baby.
All around me, their body; on my dress, the towels, the tiles, the toilet, staining my thighs, my arms, my spouse’s hands. All around me, their story, stretched and spread. All around me, a solid and fading thing at once.
When I told my in-laws, finally, a baby, they prophesied that my baby would be a Wood Dragon, a daughter, that she would be of strength, that she would survive a world bent toward our unsurvival. More stubborn than a Horse; more lucky than a Rabbit, she would come with a preparedness that her parents, all their lives, had sought.
Time, since then, has not stopped, and the days just keep arriving. All the while I worry about this world that cannot pause, mostly angry that it did not for me. I am sorry for myself and my grief; I am sorry for my child that did not arrive; I am sorry for this body and its untethering, as writing, as everything, has become a cursed, impossible thing. I blink as the stories cower together, a tangling my mind cannot unravel. I hold this body, remembering its expansion, feeling its shrinkage — such misery, this concaving of ribs, these jail-like bones closing in upon an empty wound. I am wordless, trying to recall that holy, sacred space needed to listen to its stories.
When I told my in-laws, finally, no more, they assured me that my baby was in their heart, that she wasn’t ready for her life just yet, that she had forgotten something and would come once she retrieved it. What is it that she forgot? I think this at all hours of the day. They tell me she’s after her wholeness, ending out other lives to begin her life with mine; that she is preparing, smart child, to finally arrive.
I believe in their words, but I am not yet done grieving. I won’t be for some time. I am holding, my own. A strength of hope, despite. I don’t know the origin of such power, but faith can easily be this body, mine, honoring these painful successions, these ephemeral possibilities in process of creating, past end. Until then, my daughter (maybe), my dragon (perhaps), my child (of course), for now, my sweetest kwento — I’m cradling the pieces of you, each of these tiny births, believing the eventual, that this all will lead to you.