Stillness here below
but in Heaven rejoicing–
there her song begins!
Reading Anna Eastland’s collection of poems from her beautiful book, Unexpected Blossoming—a journey of grief and hope led me into her honest, vulnerable, and talented writing. Her therapeutic poetry also opened a personal portal which had long been curtained. Thirty-one years ago, my first pregnancy ended in a miscarriage at fourteen weeks. ~Janis Mcdougall
I am honoured to share with you a truly lovely and heartfelt review of my poetry book “unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope.” This review came about by a string of connections…beginning with my former writing coach Caroline Woodward introducing me to her Tofino artist friend Joanna Streetly.
After guest-posting on her poetry advent calendar a few years ago, I returned to her blog to stumble upon a poignant poem about an eight year old boy, William, who disappeared one day by the seaside and was never found. (http://www.joannastreetly.com/written/writing/poetry/). The mournful longing for this little one, mingled with the mindfulness of his abiding presence in the surrounding countryside, made me feel Joanna could understand my poems about losing my baby daughter.
Joanna both bought my book and kindly delivered another copy to her local hospice. Some time later she shared my book with her poet friend Janis, who had suffered the loss of her first baby at 14 weeks. As the poems resonated with her, she generously wrote a short review on Joanna’s blog.
With Unexpected Blossoming—a journey of grief and hope, Anna Eastland offers consolation and invites readers to join a newly formed constellation of broken-hearts linked together by their collective grief. —Janis McDougall
Please visit Joanna’s blog and take a look to read the full review! http://www.joannastreetly.com/blog/april-is-poetry-month-2/
P.S. My book, which is $10, is available through me on my blog (email@example.com) or through blurb.ca.(http://www.blurb.ca/b/7346068-unexpected-blossoming#). If you’re a grieving mama, please contact me about a free copy. 💕
solemn raindrops adorn the bare tree branches
like bejewelled tears.
The sun peaks out and smiles wanly
at the confused pink flowers
which have emerged so late in the day…
How soon will the cold kill them,
turning their girlish blush into brown rot?
Memories creep closer like Christmas.
Loss hangs at the back of my throat—
waiting to pounce!
How I have missed blogging much this summer! I’m bursting with ideas but haven’t found enough quiet moments between camping, swimming, visiting friends, researching new homeschool programs for the fall and editing my new poetry book, unexpected blossoming: a journey of grief and hope. This has been a really good process, and quite time-consuming…going over each poem with a fine toothed comb and, on the advice of my big sister (beautiful poet and editor Dymphny Dronyk), making sure that each word, each line break, each bit of punctuation or lack thereof is intentional. The poems were written more as passionate cries from the heart, but it’s been good to read them slowly and try to make sure they express my feelings in the clearest way.
I’m excited to say that that process is just about finalized and I’m going to place my first bulk order in a day or two. I have been telling lots of people about my book and already have about 125 pre-orders, which means that another 125 will also be ordered and donated to bereaved moms, hospitals, midwife or doctor’s offices, or any other place where families suffering from miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss could benefit from my poems. I’m also getting my Blurb bookshop set up for online orders, and hope that women around the world will be able to benefit from knowing they are not alone in their grief after losing a baby.
On top of all this, my little Mr. Baby has combined late night teething and his newfound mobility to keep me on my toes night and day, and my trusted iPad mini conked out for a few weeks—leaving me a strange internet-less vacuum. Happily my sweet techie husband managed to restore it to life by cleaning up the excessive digital load it was storing…kind of like the Internet version of a home rescue. I had 1100 emails (combining inbox, sent, drafts, trash etc) and 1300 photos!! My iPad mini just couldn’t handle this kind of clutter—poor little beast! After loading the pics onto our Mac instead and deleting the insane amount of emails (gah, remind me to stop signing up for things online!), my iPad is purring away again, much to my relief. As my friend Julia put it when I told her it was out of commission: “What!? That’s your life!”
Does make you wonder though…why this need to keep everything? To read everything? To document everything? To be present everywhere (omnipresent) and to know everything (omniscient)…doesn’t that sound like Someone else’s job? Reflecting on this makes me want to strive for more simplicity. To be fully present where I am, right now, and not feel the need to hang on to old things from the past. I’m just one tiny part of this vast creation, and all I need to do is play my little part with all my heart. The rest will be taken care of by Someone much wiser than me, who doesn’t get overwhelmed by trying to fit so much into one little head!
So I hope you’ll be hearing from me more often as we settle into school this fall…wrapping ourselves in cosy scarves and sweaters and sipping cinnamon dolce latté’s as we watch the scarlet leaves tumbling against steely grey skies…oh, dear, sorry…slipping off into fantasy land! I meant as I juggle 4 homeschoolers and the baby chews my face while my toddler climbs the furniture…
Anyway, here are a few posts I hope to write soon:
Any votes for which one to write first? Let me know! A huge hug to you all from us here in Crazy Land, and best wishes for a beautiful year of learning ahead!
My first poetry book just arrived in the mail! It is dedicated in loving memory of my little daughter Josephine, whom I lost in labour almost two years ago. These poems chronicle my first year after her loss, my grief and love for my baby girl and also the hope I have of one day seeing her again.
Writing has been really therapeutic for me, and helped me give expression to the intense emotions that come with losing a little one. I want to share these poems with other families who have lost babies so that they would know that they are not alone…that others have experienced and survived such a loss.
I first thought of this project when talking to my friend Anne Schweitzer, who makes “Mother Mary Baskets” for bereaved moms. The baskets contain little comforts like bath salts, lip balm, chocolate, a fancy tea cup, etc as well as a few books on healing and hope after miscarriage. There are also special prayer cards, including one to your baby in Heaven. We thought it would be so nice to include some of my poems in the basket. Now I’ve been able to publish them in a little book, the kind you can carry in your purse and pull out to read in those quiet moments when you have time to release some of the sadness welling up inside.
Because my main goal is comforting other babyloss moms, every time a copy is sold, another will be donated to a bereaved family. I’d like to reach as many people as possible, so that instead of just an impersonal pamphlet from a hospital, bereaved moms could be given something special, something beautiful, something that honours their love and grief. I hope to donate copies to hospital chaplains, midwives, doctor’s offices, etc, as well as giving them to individual moms. It will be a thoughtful gift for people to give loved ones who lose a baby…something for them to give when they don’t know what to say themselves…
I want to thank my dear friend Rachel Lalonde, who really helped move this project along, taking care of all the technical details and keeping me on track. She also did the delicate rose photographs on the front and back covers which wrap my poems in beauty. I couldn’t have accomplished this without her! And also thank you to my brother Monti, who believed in the value of this little book so much he donated $100 towards the project when it was still just an idea. That very bill will soon be used to order copies to donate!
I’ll keep you posted once my book is available online via the publishing site Blurb, and in the mean time, for anyone near me who’d like a copy, be sure to let me know; when I do a bulk order I’ll be able to save you some shipping costs. It will be a joy to hand it to you!
This is one of the most loving, beautiful and expressive posts I’ve ever read about miscarriage…the hidden quiet, heart shattering pain of it, and the difficulty we have discussing this kind of loss. Well worth reading, both for those who have lost babies, and for those who’d like to understand better how it feels so they can support their families and friends who have. Click on the link below to read it all if you wish.
It’s in the quiet moments that I hear it the most. The soft pop and hiss of tiny fractures spreading across my aching heart. It reminds me of that first step you take onto thin ice. You feel …
Source: Deafening Silence
On Father’s Day we had a funny little thing happen. James and I were on the bus with the kids going to meet my dad for lunch. As people usually do, they commented on the number of our kids with surprise. I like to joke that as a homeschool mom I do my best to promote basic numeracy skills in the community. Like counting up to six. People frequently do that. They use their finger and point “1…2…3…4…5…6! Are they all yours?” “Yup.” Then they might shake their heads in disbelief or give a thumbs up. “That’s awesome! You don’t see big families that much anymore…”
But this time was a little different. A slightly bedraggled older man got on the bus and sat next to an Asian grandma who began to point and count in Chinese. “They all yours?” he asked. “Yes,” I smiled. “Seven, eh?” “Yes…” I replied somewhat mystified…because it’s true. I have six here and one in Heaven. Josephine would be about 20 months if she were alive. “Five girls and two boys?” he asked. “Yes!” I replied, even more surprised, because he even got that part right. I looked around but there were no other kids on the bus besides us.
And if that wasn’t strange enough, when we are walking back home a lady with two kids, a baby on her back and a toddler having a tantrum on the ground, looked at us and counted. “Wow, all yours?” Then she said to her little boy, “Look at that, seven kids and not one of them having a fit!”
Funny, right? It was as if little Josephine wanted to wave hi to Daddy on Father’s Day, to reassure him that she’s right here with us, and that he’s her daddy still. How did those people see her? I don’t know. Maybe their angels showed them. Or maybe they’re terrible at counting. But however it happened, one thing is certain: every baby counts, no matter how short their life, and they are always, always, always a part of their families.
Inspired by Carly Marie, I wrote my daughter’s name in the sand the day after Mother’s Day. It was beautiful to have a peaceful afternoon at the beach…quiet time to honour her memory as my other kids played in the sand. Being there under the giant sky with the ever moving ocean I felt timeless…connected to eternity, and to my little baby girl who entered it before me.
So for some reason things were hitting me harder than usual this week, and my perceptive friend noticed and decided a mommy date was in order. Some time to decompress. So we both arranged babysitters (small miracle) and took off to a fancy part of town to have tea and scones at a classy café. Creamy earl grey tea and a heart shaped cheese scone with Devonshire cream and raspberry jam. Very civilized!
We settled in our cosy wicker basket seats by the window to talk. After some chit chat we got into discussing the mystery of suffering. I say mystery not problem, because as philosophers explain, problems are things that can be fixed, like a broken clock, while mysteries are things to be entered into. The heart cannot be fixed simply by turning certain screws or thinking certain thoughts. Some wounds remain forever…not in the sense of being deadly, but in the sense of forever transforming a person’s heart.
Having both experienced deep suffering and loss, we agreed that there is really no answer to the “problem” of suffering….in the sense of a solution that makes it all go away or become fine. To treat sorrow as a problem to be fixed is to trivialize grief. Sometimes the worst thing a person can do is to try to make it all better by explaining it away or giving little pat answers to the great mystery of suffering.
The pain of losing someone (a child, a spouse, a best friend), is not something that needs minimized with band-aide phrases meant to make you feel better. Instead, suffering needs to be entered into, acknowledged, faced. So my sweet friend, noticing me a little discouraged, suggested a visit to my little Jo. We hadn’t been to the graveyard to see her since we moved, and I was feeling it. After our tea we bought her the prettiest little pot of flowers we could find, did some therapeutic window shopping, and got take-out to go have a picnic with her.
I told my friend, as we sat with my little daughter, sleeping beneath her flowers, about a poem I had written shortly before she was stillborn, back in those innocent days when I had no idea what was going to happen. It was called “Mama’s waiting to hold you.” Of course it hurts to read it. But there’s a kind of prayer at the end, which I do feel was answered, just in a radically different way than I expected. I ask that my daughter be blessed, and through her for God to bless the world.
You could say, “How awful, how ironic…” but I don’t think of it this way. I feel she is very blessed…very safe, happy, free from any sadness or danger…that she is glowing like a little jewel in the Heavens, and so fully her little sweet self. And I know that she has brought many blessings, and continues to touch many lives. She continually transforms me, and helps my heart to grow.
It is hard not to have her with me in my arms. But …
There are no shadows
Without the sun,
No darkness of the cross falling upon my soul
Without the brilliance of glory
Shining behind it,
With hidden brightness…
There is mystery. There is sorrow. There is hope. I cannot explain it. I can only embrace it, and do so strengthened by the love of those people willing to share this journey with me. To all who do so, thank you.
Tomorrow is a big day for Mummy. Your little brother is going to be born. We are going to coax him out into the world three weeks early, in hopes that he can be safe. In hopes that things will go differently than last time. He kicks and wiggles hello to you, his big sister in Heaven.
Know, my dear one, that you are very much in my heart right now, as ever. Your little brother is, as a friend told me today, one of your many gifts to me. So I thank you for constantly making my life richer, deeper and more exquisitely beautiful. How much I love you!
After losing you in labour last time, I am afraid. When I think about how I couldn’t save you, I tremble. I want to cry. I want to hide my head in my blankets and not come out. But I know there is a greater, deeper plan than the one I can understand. I know you are safe and beautiful and loved. That you always will be.
And I want you to know, my little sweetheart, that no matter how much time passes, you will always be my special baby, even when you have grown wise beyond your brief time on earth by so much time spent in Heaven, that timeless place of Love, where I hope to join you one day.
Save me a huge hug and so many kisses, and tomorrow shower us with the grace of your perfect little prayers, as your brother makes his epic journey into this world. I know that we are wrapped in the wings of angels, and lifted up by the strength of so many heartfelt prayers.
I pray that our new little one may, above all, become like his sister, a saint—a sweet beacon of love for the world.
All my heart’s embraces,
The Feast of All Saints