Monday, March 16, 2009

On compassion

After reading Sarah's post, I was thinking about the word compassion. I use that word all the time. It is the main quality I wish to bestow upon my daughter. But I have never really looked it up before. So, I did:

1. a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.

Even the definition makes me feel deeply that the universe is a good place...It isn't that I don't know what this word means, but I wanted to be reminded of all the elements of it. Deep sympathy. Sorrow for another. Desire to alleviate suffering.It isn't simply one of these qualities or feelings, it is all of them together. That is powerful medicine. The synonyms that came up are commiseration, mercy, tenderness, heart, clemency. Wow.

I asked Sally the other day how she found my blog, and she said Sarah sent an email to a few people. Then she honestly said, "I must admit, when i got the one about you I was like 'fuck not another one' almost as if, my heart is full, i can't support any more." And honestly, I don't know how she did, yet grateful that she is. We all have an the exhausting job of mourning, of sadness, or existing. That is enough, like that folktale I wrote about once, that is enough work. But all of these women come together and sound the call. I imagine it sounds like a great wail across the world, hitting San Francisco, Australia, Germany, the bat signal, only a loud, deep guttural cry only a mother experiencing the death of their child knows, to support another new mother of another dead baby. Compassion, indeed. And the effect is tangible. I am here and ready to offer my arms, my ears, my tears, my memory for the next woman, even as I beg the universe that there will be no more women...This beautiful, sad, cyclical community thrives on compassion, and proves the extent in which our hearts are capable and ready to love.

I don't know why I am writing about this this morning, when others have written about it so well. But hell, I will probably write about it a thousand times again. But it got me thinking about these stories. Our stories. I devour babylost stories. Before I could find my own voice, I relied on the stories I read of others able to somehow breathe another day. They told my story. They put words to the anger, the pain, despair, grief, guilt...Some of those women went on to birth again and showed pictures of their beautiful children. Women that wrote stories about a small joy in life, like the first flower popping after a long cold winter (hey, my front lawn is littered with crocus). Stories about women who were finally emerging back into the world, a little pale and clammy, but eager for sunlight on their skins. I wanted to read about survival, especially from women who experienced the stillbirth of their child like me. The most powerful posts for me are the ones where the emotions are so raw, so honest that they floored me, somehow made me laugh a little, but left me slack jawed and crying all at the same time. Where there are no other words to describe the experience except fuck, or wow. I vicariously live through those happy times, laugh at the rants, feel a great satisfaction at pure raw anger and vitriol, and I cry with the sad.

Before Lucy, I didn't know you existed. I didn't know about your children. I'm sorry. I should have known. The world should know about all of our babies. But now, I think their names constantly along with my daughter's name. Name after name, like couples, I cannot think about a mother without thinking about her son, or daughter. They go off in my head interminably. And I think there is part of me that is collecting these names. One day, when they hand me a microphone somewhere, and I will say them all together, in a long litany, so those thousands of ignorant fools out there, of which I am and was one, will know about our babies. And I will say each name, "Angie and Lucia. We will not forget." Standing tall, trying not to cry, and say them all, until I drop...or they pull me off stage and tell me this is the annual book festival of Collingswood...

But I just thought I should remind anyone who might think of themselves as not compassionate enough, your comment on one woman's stupid blog might change her outlook for the day, it might change a tide in Philadelphia, it might change the world.


  1. I think it was that great wail across the ocean that brought me here Angie. I could hear it loud and clear. And I for one will never be able to ignore it. Not for all of my days. Love to you xo

  2. Speaking of raw and heartfelt posts.... this one speaks volumes. Your analogy of our "wails" across the world... wow... so true. Like you, I feel very comforted by this network of support, I just really, really wish we have "met" for another reason.
    Thank you for sharing.

  3. so beautiful angie
    i too feel like i devour every babylost mamas story. to feel that little tiny bit of 'she gets it' and 'i'm not alone'. that has kept me alive.
    i too am thankful you are part of my new community of compassion and so sad we had to meet this way.
    i will always remember lucy; lucy and lev and all our beautiful babies.

  4. Beautiful post, Angie. I couldn't have made it this far without the women here propping me up when needed. Knowing I am not alone has kept me going.

  5. I actually knew of a few lost babies on the net before mine, and their blogs were the first ones I perused when I climbed back on line. It took me a while though to have the steel to even get through someone else's story without it sending me into spasms of grief. And then I found the great loss blogroll and it was like someone had showed me a secret garden.

    I attend the Children's Memorial Service at CHOP in December and carry with me scraps of paper containing all the names of children I now know who have died. To just hold and feel while they read through their set of names, and my child's. It honestly makes me feel less lonely and redistributes the weight.

  6. sometimes i feel overwhelmed by all the stories, all the blogs, like how can i find the time to show each woman that i'm thinking of her, and show it by commenting on her blog? i have anxiety over it, like i'm not doing enough, with all the comments and thoughts we get every day.
    i had no clue any of us existed either before this. i can't believe i've found this community, this incredible group of women. its really what keeps me going, and no matter what, i will always make sure to find time to let each one of you know that i'm thinking of you as much as possible.
    sending lots of love to you angie. your writing is beautiful.

  7. angie, I hope you have comments emailed to you otherwise you may never see this one. I sit here tonight, nodding, as I read through your entire blog's history, devouring the words, (and now coincidentally I'm reading a post about you devouring the words of other moms with dead children) it all seems so...I don't know...fitting. synchronistic. graceful.

    and then I get to this: "But I just thought I should remind anyone who might think of themselves as not compassionate enough, your comment on one woman's stupid blog might change her outlook for the day, it might change a tide in Philadelphia, it might change the world." and I want to tell you that your comment on my blog tonight did just this for me.

    so, thank you.

    with much love.


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