Monday, February 4, 2008

My Water Children

A few weeks ago our church had a special service devoted to "welcoming," and Mike and I were scheduled to do the children's sermon. On the way to church, I gave the boys an overview of what I planned to talk about. I told them that I was going to talk about different types of families...that some families have one dad, one mom, one son, and one daughter, and our family has one dad, one mom, and three sons, and so on. Then my plan was to ask each child about the makeup of their families, and then talk about special families that have two moms or two dads.

While we were talking, Kieran piped up with "And what about the four babies that died in your tummy, Mommy?"

Later that week, the topic surfaced again, when he asked about the babies in his matter-of-fact way. In his mind, we should have had seven children, and he is very curious about why we don't. What does not enter his mind is the fact that we would not have had him if I hadn't had all the miscarriages.

During that heart-breaking 3- to 4-year period when I had all those miscarriages, young Chris had just the briefest, childlike glimpse of understanding of what was happening. Nowadays we hardly ever talk about it amongst our family, so I do not know how Kieran heard about it. However, we have always talked openly about death and loss in our family, so this loss has obviously registered with him somehow.

In Japan, they have a way of remembering children who died through stillbirth, miscarriage, or abortion. It's called "mizuko kuyo (水子供養). Japan is full of shrines devoted to remembering these "water babies." It is intended to be a way for mothers to grieve their babies, give comfort to the fetus' soul, and keep away vengeful spirits.

I have discovered something about myself and my coping abilities in the past several years: I do not like to dwell in sadness and depression, and if I can find a way to bring myself out of it, I will try to do so. After each one of my miscarriages, I could not imagine how I would ever be able to try again. But somehow, I did, again and again. Sometimes I needed to grieve for several months (or even well over a year) before I could even think of trying again. But now that I have three beautiful boys and have been blessed more than I could have imagined by a houseful of love and laughter, I do not often think of my water children.

Perhaps I need my 4-year-old to remind me to remember them more often. He is, after all, the one I was so eager to meet and the reason I kept going back to the well for more...more pain and ultimately more joy.

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