I remember the very moment I read Dr. Kay’s message. It was one of those rare nights when my husband went to bed before me. Though I would say that there was nothing “normal” about that time after Rafa’s birth. After the ceremony and the departure of my family. After that cleansing time at the ocean. Everything was rare. I was walking up the stairs, headed toward bed and reading messages on my phone. I was almost to the second floor when I came to Dr. Kay’s message. Carlos Alvarez (a.k.a. Dr. Kay) is our dear friend who was living across the ocean in South Africa when all of this took place. Over five weeks had passed since Rafa’s death and the texts, voice messages and emails were no longer as overwhelming as they had been at first. Roughly translated, the message read:
June has come and gone. It’s been raining here some, these past weeks. There’ve been quite a few tears, too. At some level, it all makes sense. It is the rainy season in Oaxaca, after all. As the one-year anniversary of our due date approaches, it’s no surprise that deep emotions are stirring. I knew that this summer would be hard, but I did not expect the trouble to begin so soon.
It’s Cancer season, one of the most foreign astrological signs for me. Since Rafa’s due date was originally July 18th, I imagined he would be born under the crab’s sign. I found this curious since I sometimes struggle to relate to the introverted, homebody Cancers in my life. What would it be like to have a water-son? With all my fire and earth, how would that feel?
I do not want to be sitting here, writing this. I would rather be doing any other thing in the world. I have procrastinated for long enough and now, in the short time I have, I must write.
I was going to start this long overdue post by saying that time is flying. I was going to say that there are certain things I need to write about from the time right before Rafa’s death and birth so that I will never forget them. But now, time is mush. Time is nothing.
¿A dónde vamos desde aquí? Porque me siento un poco perdida después de estas últimas semanas de subibajas emocionales, de escritos y reflexiones sobre asuntos tan cerca de mi corazón y tan difíciles de articular; tal vez recordar la historia de mi embarazo me ayude a orientarme un poco. (Esto no quiere decir que ya no tenga muchas subidas y bajadas de ánimo, situaciones, sentimientos y pensamientos extraños, pero regresemos a eso más tarde).
Una de mis pasiones en la vida es hacer conexiones. Particularmente, me encanta crear las condiciones para lograr conexiones inesperadas entre las personas. Creo que las relaciones humanas honestas, confiables, recíprocas son magia verdadera. Cuando podemos compartir algo de lo que somos y cómo vemos el mundo de una manera auténtica, especialmente a través de la distancia y la diferencia, se hace posible algo que antes no lo era. Creamos nuestros futuros al relacionarnos, colaborar, hablar con la verdad y al poner a un lado nuestros egos.
Where to go from here? Because I feel a little lost after these last intense weeks of up-and-down emotions, of writings and reflections on matters so close to my heart and so difficult to articulate, perhaps going back to the story of my pregnancy might help me get oriented. (This is not to say that I am not still having plenty of up’s and down’s, strange happenings, feelings and thoughts, but let’s circle back around to all that at a later time.)
One of my passions in life is making connections. I particularly love creating the conditions for unlikely connections between people. I believe that honest, trusting, reciprocal human relationship is real magic. When we can share something of who we are and how we see the world in an authentic way, especially across distance and difference, something becomes possible that wasn’t before. We create our futures by relating, collaborating, truth-speaking and putting aside our egos.
A few days ago, we returned home from the YES! Jam, a gathering here in Mexico that some friends and I began dreaming up before Rafael was even conceived. The Jam was an important milestone in my healing process since the plan had originally been to participate as a family. It was supposed to have been Rafa’s first encuentro with people from his extended global family of friends and non-blood siblings. The time was good and hard. There’s some gratification that comes with simply completing the gathering. This completion helps me to remember that time is passing, that I am still alive and moving forward. There is the lingering sadness that was more alive (or had more room) during the time we were together; our togetherness somehow made Rafa’s absence more present. There are questions about how much I should continue to self-identify first and foremost as a bereaved mother, asking myself if that is healthy or useful. There was space for anger (which I have struggled with letting out). There was this beautiful little one-year-old, Andino. There was also a fuck-ton of laughter and fun and joy! I felt bathed in the light of the community: the light of each person and the glow of our collective power.
Twelve hours passed between the mid-day visit to the doctor’s office confirming that Rafael was no longer alive inside my womb and the beginning of full-on labor. That time was both sacred and a total scramble of consciousness and memory. I had several realizations during those hours that I have come to see as “Truths” (for me) in the months since Rafa’s death. I now live with the lessons that came to me during that precious time as guiding principles. One of them has to do with the mystery and miracle of life itself.
After the doctor’s office, I asked my midwife to drop Yeyo and I off at my parents’ hotel. My mom and dad had come to Oaxaca from Salt Lake City for the birth. Once we had delivered the devastating news, we sat stunned on the uncomfortable couches in their condo-style hotel room. I think it was then that my wise husband said, “We have to remember that this little baby was a miracle. His very existence has no medical explanation.” Followed by: “And why he died is a mystery. It’s something we will never understand.”
Before we get to Rafa and his story, I need to tell you about Ruby Beltrán Dunford. Unlike our son, Ruby did not come to exist on this material plane, she was not conceived or nurtured or born. Ruby was the baby girl that Yeyo and I dreamt of for some nine years before the nurse practitioners and OBGYNs and clinicians told me that I could never have children. She was the baby that never was.
In the early fall of 2007 I decided that I was ready to have a baby (to raise on my own). I thought Yeyo would make a great dad (you know: smart genes, good looks, sensitive soul and loads of generosity and kindness). But he wasn’t the sperm doner-ing type, I guess. He said, “I’ll have a kid with you, but only if you’re my partner and we try to build a life together.” And I said… “Well, why not?” We decided I would move to Mexico the following year and I headed out from Boston on a freezing cold morning in January with three suitcases and never returned to live in the gabacho.*