Sometimes, I don’t take into account how much material things weigh on me and occupy space on the psycho-emotional level. I was reading the fabulous adrienne maree brown’s Pleasure Activism and there’s an interview in there about fashion and feeling comfortable, pampered and confident in the clothes we wear. At one point, the interviewee talks about her experience with polycystic ovary syndrome and gaining a lot of weight in a short amount of time. Maori Karmael Holmes says: “I had been building a collection of beautiful things and suddenly couldn’t wear any of them. I moved around with bags of clothes for nearly a decade with the hope of wearing them again. Right before a cross-country move, I took stock of all of these things and realized these bags were physically weighing me down and that I needed to release them. So I did.”
Somehow, this brings me to the baby stuff. As I’ve shared in this and other posts, we still have most of the things that were gifted to us when we were pregnant with Rafa. A few days after the birth, my mom and I went to the supermarket and purchased three transparent tubs. That afternoon we all took deep breaths and forayed into the nursery/guest bedroom to face the mountain of baby stuff. We sorted and boxed and returned borrowed things to their owners. We sifted through tiny baby socks and clothes. We made up gift bags for people we knew who had recently birthed living babies. We packed up the stroller and the playpen and stacked it all in the closet.
When we moved two years ago, these tubs were some of the first things I took to the new house. I knew I wouldn’t need any of those things in the weeks that we were in transition. I feel ashamed of the stuff from time to time; I’m sure houseguests have wondered: why do they still have all this? Last October, I started (once again) to think seriously about letting go of the hope that I might one day, somehow, become a mother to a living child. The first thing that came into my mind when I began to contemplate this idea was: THE STUFF.
Over the past months, I have been wavering back and forth between holding onto the slim chance that Yeyo and I would some day find ourselves in a place to begin exploring adoption, and fully releasing the dream of ever being a mother to a living child. At the same exact time I began to let go, I received many strange “signs from the universe” that perhaps I should persevere with this desire. People saw pictures of me and thought I was pregnant, they had dreams of me “with child,” they asked me what I was gestating, and shared their own intimate hopes to have children, despite all the odds.
It was confusing.
Instinctively and internally, one impulse was arising. Externally and in community, a very different kind of collective noticing seemed to be surfacing. And yet… over the past many weeks I’ve had the chance to ask myself: which path will serve me… and Yeyo… and our other loved ones? I went to the mainland United States for the first time in almost three years and spent a week with the YES! Jam community where I had lots of opportunities to be with myself and to share some of the shadows, fears and longings that are present in me now… five years after my first pregnancy. I spent the week bunking with a friend of mine and her four-month old baby, Zion. I chatted with a dear sister who made the decision with her partner not to continue trying to have kids after a pregnancy loss. I screamed and wailed and mourned all four of our unborn babies. I cried. A LOT!
I’ve returned home with the clarity that it is time to release the hope of becoming a mother to a living kid in the way that I have been imagining. On the Winter Solstice, I let go of this desire in a solo ritual and spread the ashes of this dream around the tree outside our house. I have not released the desire to be a mother and I am staying very open to the possibility of mothering in other ways. I feel grateful that even though the last pregnancy was so incredibly difficult, that I came through that with the clarity that I wanted to be a mother. And, sometimes: We. Do. Not. Get. What. We. Want.
Now that I’m letting go of hope, what’s next?
Deal with the stuff.
It feels like clearing the actual physical space in our home may create the conditions for something new… perhaps a life with more joy and magic. I don’t really know what will come of getting rid of the stuff, but it feels like simply opening the closet to find empty shelves rather than piles of baby blankets, might bring a fresh breath to my lungs.
All that’s nice. But when it came time on January 1st to actually pull down the transparent tubs and wrench out the awkward stroller, well, that was rather more heavy and difficult than making the decision to get rid of this shit. Honestly, I wish I could just lug it all out to the curb and leave it there for some random people to take home… or drop it off in one fail swoop at the Desarrollo Integral de la Familia office or something. Unfortunately, we need money right now. So… the stuff must be sold. Well, at least we have to try.
I’m creating a catalog with photos of all of the different items, prices, contact info, etc. So far, I’ve only gotten around to taking the photos… and… uuuffff, it’s been pretty tough. I’ve asked my community here to support me, both in my decision to give up trying to be a mother and with the getting rid of the stuff. It feels like something I can’t do alone. And at the same time, it feels like a necessary part of the letting go ritual. It reminds me of that moment right after the decisive ultrasound — the one with no heartbeat to be found — when I knew that I needed to have a vaginal birth. Like that time, I feel I must go through the process in my body in order to really allow the situation / decision to fully enter and move through me. I think it has to do with how the somatic experience is different and deeper for me than the cognitive one sometimes.
Yet… this one is weighty. The stuff is still there, now in our closet. I acknowledge that I am pretty scared. I’m afraid of the void. I intuit that by wresting the baby stuff from its stagnant place in our lives some new energy will move into that space. But I don’t know. I intuit that letting go of the dream of motherhood will allow me to move into deeper relationship with myself, with Yeyo, with my other beloveds, with my passions and with my pleasure. But I don’t know.
The nihilist in me is like: “Naaahhh! Without this, there’s just never-ending nothingness and sadness.” As always, I am deeply afraid of the empty spaces in my life. It’s that horror vacui rearing its monstrous head again. I walk towards the void. I make the void. I be the void.
I’ll wrap up this post with a quick story. We have a dear family friend who has a similar story to mine. Her baby died in her womb just before she was due to be born. She would have been about my age now, so this all happened back in the mid-seventies. Things were pretty different then and our friend wasn’t given the chance to spend time with her baby’s body when she was born. The people in the hospital didn’t acknowledge or speak to her about what had happened. It goes without saying that she didn’t have a lot of support for processing what had happened. When our friend came home from the hospital after a few days, she found that the entire nursery had been reverted to its pre-pregnancy state, and that her husband and family had gotten rid of all of the baby stuff. It seemed like it would just be better if she were not reminded of what she had lost.
I heard this story a few months after Rafa’s stillbirth. I was horrified. How could those people have made the decision on behalf of this mother as a way of trying to anesthetize her feelings? Today, my feelings about this have changed. A part of me now wishes that some magical stillbirth fairy would have swept into our guest bedroom-cum-nursery while I was giving birth to my dead baby and made all the stuff disappear. Seems like life today might be just a tad lighter and less stuck if that had happened. Our stories about the stories we hear can change with time. Our stories about what is absolutely essential in our lives change. About what we have to have or be. Probably none of these stories are “true”. But perhaps cultivating and noticing the capacity to magnanimously and compassionately see how stories about our stories can change, is a sign of maturity and wisdom. That’s how it feels to me today.
3 thoughts on “Stuff”
Brave of YOU. “Stuff” is a difficult subject. Treasures vs. Trash … things can be neither or both with the passage of time. I’m so very proud of you in the way that you are present in you life. Takes a lot of guts. Besos y abrazos. CD
“Wisdom is what remains when we’ve come to the end of everything we know.” Bayo recently posted this quote on FB. As I read your post, and particularly the repeated lines, “I don’t Know.” I couldn’t help (in the midst of the sadness of your story) but hear/feel the wisdom you’re gathering in your calabash to then pour out into the world.
Thank you, my dear Cherie. In these times, I am sensing that often my wisdom emerges from my ability to stay very present in the not knowing. How do you feel?