Monday, June 29, 2009


I have written before of my homecoming in the summer of 2003. I am not speaking here of the time we drove up the driveway in our little silver car, and got out, my belly swollen and empty, face blank as canvas. I'm not writing of that time, when our families ushered our shell-shocked exteriors into the house, where the baby books and newborn supplies had been tidily hidden in our nursery for us to peruse when we were ready. That time, I came home with no baby, but also no idea what I was entering into. I was numb to the core, my very bones shuddering at the emptiness that was inside me, and I did not have the facilities to contemplate what I actually faced.

No, here I am talking of my second homecoming, when Greg and I arrived in that same car at the back drive of our summer cottage, the same cottage where I had spent every summer of my life, and my father every summer of his, and my grandfather and great grandfather every summer of theirs. This was the cottage, my ancestral home, where I had dreamed of bringing my newborn baby girl, where throughout my pregnancy I had fantasized about all my relatives rushing out to ooh, and aah, and congratulate me on being almost the first of my generation (the fifth generation of the point) to create a new being. (There are actually already 8 members of the sixth generation, but their family is off-set in ages from the rest of the extended family, so I was to have been the first in my cousin-cohort to reproduce). Instead, I stumbled from the car, my face already swollen with tears, and I ran and tried to hide myself in the house because I didn't think I could live through the summer without her.

But there is no hiding in a cedar-planked cottage with no insulation. I am certain my wails reverberated over the point, the awful, lost, sad wails of a mother who has lost her child. If you have not lost a child, you cannot fathom this sound. If you have, you have heard it, and have recoiled at the realization that you posess the grief to create such a sound. My cries could not be contained, though, and there was no warm welcome to sweep me up. I could not have felt more alone, there on the point, surrounded by one-hundred and fifteen years of love and holiday and song. My baby wasn't there. I could not be consoled.

I felt nearly certain that my relatives, who I did love and care for, would not be effusive in their condolences. I had endured enough sympathy cards, hugs, and flowers by now to learn who spoke with honesty and who hid from the truth, and I had an inkling of an idea that most of my relatives would be the types to hug me deeply, but then to never mention Charlotte's name, thinking it best to keep the past in the past, and to look forward with new eyes. I was almost, nearly prepared for this. I knew that most of them would lack courage to engage me in a real conversation. I knew plenty of people would avoid me altogether. These people had not seen me pregnant. They had not seen the ultrasounds, felt her feet and elbows through my belly. She was not real to them, she was a pregnancy loss equal to a loss at 6 weeks or 8, something society is well-trained in sweeping under the rug at all costs (not that I encourage this). So I did prepare myself, I did, I did.

But there was one person who I had always been close to, I had always cherished in a special way, and she had sent me some beautiful things in the mail, and had included a poignant poem which we had read at Charlotte's memorial. She, I believed, was different. I believed she would perhaps be the one to sit on the porch and ask me questions. I don't know why I thought this, but I did. So later that afternoon, after my wails had subsided, and silence fell like a black cloak over our still household, she came over and enveloped me in the warmest, most enveloping hug I'd ever felt. The tears started before she spoke, tears of appreciation which soon turned bitter at her words to me, uttered with a soft hand stroking my hair, "It will be allright. Everything is going to be allright."

All right? EVERYTHING?

These were not, were not the words I needed to hear. Everything was NOT allright, and it never would be. I said so.

"It is not all right. My baby girl is gone, how can that ever be all right?"

I do not remember her response, if there even was one. And I write here not at the dismay in this person, because now I can see with complete clarity that she was doing everything she could to try to help me, but she just didn't know what to say. The emotion I seek to extract here is not anger towards a person, but this pervasive feeling of utter disappointment that we, the bereaved, feel when someone who we trusted and care about comes out and says the wrong thing. It has happened to us all. Everyone has someone who has said something that may not have been outright hurtful, but has made our heart sink into our stomach, because here was someone we hoped would say our baby's name, and hold our hand while we cried, and all they can stomach is to try to fix it with one simple sentence.

Nobody knows what to do, nobody. Nobody knows what to say. We are all speechless in the face of loss, of grief, and especially when birth and death, life's two greatest mysteries, intertwine. We the bereaved have all due respect for this not-knowing what to do. But say it, say it. Know not what to do, be speechless with your thoughts, and say so. Let us grieve, let us grieve. It is the only way out, it is the only way up. We must grieve in order to grow, and we must grow in order to live.

It was a lonely time, that August, a lonely time. This year, I head to the point a month early, to afford my blessed chidren with five weeks of sun and sand, surrounded by the love of one hundred and twenty years of family holiday. They will sleep under the same roof that their great-great-great grandfather built, and they will breathe the fresh Simcoe air that has nourished plenty a soul over the years. I will be pregnant there for the first time ever, and I am already prepared for the numerous comments that will surely come about my "third" pregnancy. I will, of course, remind them of the facts. And I will sit with knowing that many people, no matter how much they care for you, simply cannot face the truth.

**And suffice this to say that my internet access will be sporadic at best over the next five weeks, so please don't abandon me, my fair readers, as I desperately seek kind souls with computers who will let me check into the blog-o-sphere every now and again... Until the next time, fare well***


Taking Heart said...

Well wishes for you and your lovely family... the way you describe this cottage is whimsical and sweet. I pray you have a wonderful time!

Sara said...

Carol, have a lovely summer. I look forward to seeing you when you get back.

Hope's Mama said...

A few family members said that to me at her funeral, with her tiny white coffin the grave just metres away from us. All right, how could anything be all right. I still had the urge to jump down in there with her at that point.
I am so glad you get to take this fourth child of yours to this very special place. And next year, how sweet it will be when your chubby little baby can enjoy the time in the sun and sand with the two big siblings, and the missing one always looking over.
I'll miss you, Carol. Be well my friend.

kris said...

Enjoy the cottage, the family, and the water. I know you'll catch glimpses of Charlotte in the sunlight off the water and the giggles of her siblings.

niobe said...

You're exactly right that people far too often say the wrong thing, the thing that they think will be comforting, but that we don't want to hear.

charmedgirl said...

there is a saying that i have been thinking of lately, one which is weaving itself into the very fiber of my heart: "truth or happiness, never both." i acknowledge truth (or as close as we can get to real truth) as necessary for growth, i also understand that i can't allow it to sink me. it doesn't and can't possibly apply perfectly to everything in my life, but goshdarnit, i'm trying to choose happiness. i'm accepting, letting go, letting everything come to pass, and after all, choosing happiness. for now.

have a magical vacation.

Salma said...

I read your story in Mothering magazine and I feel that it is so close to what happened to us. After reading your blog I feel hopeful and sad simultaneously.

The isolation and feelings of loneliness is something I was beginning to think was a curse,but finding blogs like yours is surely a part of my healing process.