In the summer of 2008, Will and I traveled to Japan with Will's parents. It would be our last major trip with both his parents before his father would become too ill to travel overseas. We had a wonderful time, but it was a trip I had mixed feelings about going on. I was reeling from our second miscarriage in six months. My loss felt raw and poignant.
Here are some excerpts from a post I wrote about it at the time:
"As we arrived in Japan, I had just stopped bleeding from the D&C... We found when we arrived that Japan has space in its culture to acknowledge pregnancy loss in ways that don't exist in the United States...
'Mizuko' is the Japanese word for a miscarried baby. It translates to 'water child' because in Japanese Buddhism it is believed that the soul flows slowly into a child, the child becoming more solid as they age. In this way the mizuko is somewhere on the spectrum between being and nonbeing, neither a full person nor a nonperson. I loved this conceptualization. It seemed to fit perfectly with our experience of these betwixt and between lives. These losses that were so real but also felt vague and undefined.
You can make an offering to Jizo, a Bodhisattva who will help your mizuko find a second way into being, helping it to either return to you in the form of another baby, or to find another family...We had read in a Peggy Orenstein essay about her miscarriage in Japan that we could also leave toys with a Jizo to help our two lost babies find a way back into being. So amid our other sightseeing, we detoured to a toy store and bought small gifts."
"Later in our trip we found ourselves at the top of a hill... We found a Nanairo-no-yadorigi tree and read that this tree is famous for its symbolic ties to fertility and pregnancy. You can write a wish on a piece of paper and twist it around a tree branch to help you conceive and protect an unborn child.
Will and I in 2008, making our offering of baby toys in front of a Jizo statue in Tokyo
I am certain our original note has long since vanished from this tree. Four years have passed, and Japan has been ravaged in the meantime with its own disasters.So we tied our offering to this tree, a prayerful wish that we would conceive a healthy child. The custom is that when our wish is granted we should return to the tree and find and untie the paper."
Tying our wish for a healthy, living child to the Nanairo-no-yadorigi tree
As I wrote this post four years ago, my heart was so broken, but still so hopeful. And as many of you know, my heart continued to be broken again and again - over six lost babies, and many other times over failed IVF cycle after cycle where there was no glimmer even of a life.
I often thought about our prayerful offerings, our wish tied so hopefully to a tree. Wondered why no one heard our wish. Why we couldn't find our way out the other side, no matter how much we longed for it, no matter how much we tried.
And now here we are... It feels like a lifetime from then.
It is Fall of 2012. My own body is full, overflowing with child. A child who has felt to me to be made of water throughout the pregnancy but whose soul has been quietly flowing into her as the months have passed. A child whose body has become more and more solid until now, when she is about to be born.
Born in just a few days.
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