We are not alone | Personal

This is going to be the most personal post as of yet. This isn’t easy. So why am I doing it? Not because I necessarily feel the need to share. No. I am doing this because people need to speak up. By staying silent, I feel that I am helping to keep a very painful, and very common, reality hidden. By not speaking up, I am helping to make women feel isolated in their grief. That is the last thing I want.

This is my story, our story.

Like many couples we wanted to have a family. Like many couples we tried to get pregnant. And like many couples, we had complications. I had two miscarriages, one at about 7.5 weeks and one at about 4 weeks.

When this happens to you, you learn a lot of things. Like that up to 55% of pregnancies end up in a miscarriage, at times with the woman not even realizing that she even ever was pregnant. That most miscarriages are due to chromosomal issues, and that it’s just nature’s way of sorting itself out. That most couples who keep trying end up successfully carrying a child to term. Does any of these facts make it better? Easier to accept? Absolutely not. Even the word miscarriage made me uncomfortable, like I had poorly carried my child and brought this onto myself.

Even though I had done nothing wrong, and had spent 6 months prior doing everything right to get myself to be as healthy as possible, I still felt guilt. Could have I done more? Was it because I didn’t want to get too excited before we reached the 2nd trimester? Was something wrong with me? Was God punishing me or testing me? And why us? What had we done to deserve this?

It has now been more than a year, and still, this is hard. I can’t read or watch something that reminds me of my miscarriages without wanting to cry, scream, or both. Sometimes I am fine and sometimes I feel like I am drowning in a sea of grief. And you know what? That is OK. Being angry and sad and whatever else you feel is perfectly fine, regardless of the circumstances of your loss.

What really marked me though throughout this whole ordeal is that as we shared the news with select friends and family, almost everyone we spoke to knew of someone who had experienced a miscarriage, if not themselves personally. How is it that miscarriage affects so many and yet we hear so little about it? Why is our grief so taboo, so hidden? Why does it feel wrong for us to mourn a life we never got to meet? To mourn an unknown amount of love and infinite possibilities?

Well, there is a place where mourning miscarried, stillborn, and aborted babies is engrained in the culture and publicly accepted. That place is Japan. I had learned about this on my first trip in Japan back in 2005, and this has stuck with me ever since.

After the miscarriages, I was really sad and upset and all I wanted was to do was to travel to Japan on a pilgrimage in order to mourn. Well, my awesome husband is making this happen for me. For my birthday, he offered me a return flight to Tokyo, so I may grieve, meditate, and hopefully, find some closure and heal.

This is the reason as to why I am writing this post: I want to extend some healing and closure to you. If you have lost a baby, be it for any reason, before or soon after birth, I am offering a little bit of help. On my pilgrimage to the temple in Nagano which has lovely Jizō statues (see photos bellow, plus the explanation about the tradition), I can also do the following, for you:
– Splash water on the Jizō statue (this part of the normal ritual for mizuko)
– Light incense
– Carry a letter or note (many parents leave letters for their children)
– Mediate / send loving thoughts / say a prayer on your behalf

I will be heading to Japan on the 8th of September 2014, and will be in Nagano starting on the 11th. If you are interested, simply drop me a line in the comment box (or using the “contact me” information). Just let me know what sort of offering you would like, and for how many children. You do not need to let me know how you lost your baby, if you do not want to.

I really hope this pilgrimage can help you, as I am sure it will help me. You, we, are not alone.

***

Bellow you will find more information about Jizō, mizuko, and some links that do a really good job about explaining the tradition and iconography.

Jizō (the Japanese name for Ksitigarbha) is the Buddhist guardian of children, but more specifically, children who died before their parents. In Japan, he is worshiped as the guardian of the souls of mizuko, (lit.: water child) the souls of stillborn, miscarried or aborted fetuses. Some Jizō statues are dressed with red bibs and/or hats, and these statues are sometimes found by the hundreds in temples and cemeteries. Jizō is everywhere in Japan, and actively worshiped. The great thing about Jizō statues and temples is that it gives grieving parents a place to go to mourn, give offerings, and extend something tangible to something otherwise intangible. {Learn more about Ksitigarbha and about Jizō and his associated rituals/iconography/etc in Japan.}

Grieving parents in Japan can also have a memorial service for their unborn child. This is called mizuko kuyō. On top of a memorial service where parents make offerings to Jizō to ensure their child’s protection while in limbo and ensure eventual reincarnation, parents can also have their own Jizō statue, giving them a very personal place to mourn. These statues are visited like one would visit a grave: parents bring flowers, gifts, and wash the statue. Parents visit and pray. There is something tangible. Something real. Parents there have an outlet for their grief, an outlet that no one questions. {Read more about the ritual here, here, here, and here (PDF).}

Here are some example of Jizō statues and temples across Japan, taken on my previous trips.

In Nagano:

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In Miyajima:

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In Tokyo:

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About Magalie

Canadian girl living in Texas, off to see the world when she can!
This entry was posted in Asia, Home, Japan, Miscellaneous, Post with photo and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to We are not alone | Personal

  1. Jordan Menu says:

    Mags, thank you for sharing. We had two miscarriages as well during our adventures in conceiving. One doctor put it a fantastic way that has stuck with me since and made me thankful for the entire situation. Yes, 1 out of every 2 pregnancies went into a miscarriage. HALF! And he said, imagine if one of these things went to term, you’d have a 3 legged something-or-other and nature saw this happen and said “NUH-UH”! There are so many things that need to go perfect to make a human being, all the pieces need to be in the right spot, the cells need to grow properly, if one thing goes wrong, then you end up with something that isn’t perfect – and I don’t think any of us want that, and we can’t control ANY OF IT.

    Have an amazing journey, spend the time you need to be in a more spiritual place. But just remember, the best strategy for making a family is to have a lot of sex. Get back on the proverbial horse… Maybe not so proverbial.. T?

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    • Magalie says:

      Thank you Jordan! I remember having that conversation with you guys on our last visit. Of course we all want a healthy baby! That is super important and mother nature knows what she is doing. It’s hard though, because until you succeed it can give a feeling of incompetence.

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      • Julia says:

        I appreciate the sentiment of that doctor but am not the least bit surprised it’s a male doctor. I haven’t been pregnant and don’t want to be but I do appreciate the feeling women have when fertility is hard or impossible. We grow up believing that this is something we can easily do and should be able to do and when nature interferes, a lot of women are left feeling incompetent or like they’ve failed. I believe the feelings around miscarriages, infertility and pregnancy in general are so freaking complicated (I’m learning more from my sis right now) – and probably only fully comprehended by the women who’ve experienced (not that the man doesn’t mourn…just that the feelings are different). I hope this trip provides you with the closure and comfort you need!

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      • Magalie says:

        Thank you Julia! I think you are right, every woman experiences it differently. There is no right or wrong way, but there are a lot of negative feelings because it hardly ever goes like we are told we should go – and it makes us feel “wrong”, guilty, and a bunch of other feelings. We can have trouble conceiving, or keeping the baby. We can be miserable while pregnant, instead of being happy and glowing. Making babies is hard work, and a roller coaster of emotions.

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  2. Tara says:

    Magalie, thank you for sharing your story so beautifully and bravely. I hope your trip to Japan is a healing one! Sending loving thoughts as you embark on your pilgrimage! xoxo

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  3. I’m so sorry for your losses, Mags. That’s so tough and I know how much you want to start a family. Tons of love to you and Travis.

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  4. Ginger says:

    Oh my precious daughter (in-law) my heart is shattered into 100,000 pieces for you and Trav at learning about your second miscarriage. I’m weeping as I write. I hope your sharing here brings an outpouring of love and comfort. I pray too that God will wrap you in His loving arms and carry you through your pilgrimage to Japan granting you healing and peace. Your are brave! I love you so!

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    • Magalie says:

      Thank you so much Ginger, I love you too! I have been getting a lot of love, and it helps! It’s nice to feel supported throughout this, instead of alone. I feel like so many friends and family are coming to Japan with me. This is a really good thing!

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  5. em says:

    Wow, this is incredibly person. Thank you for sharing. I wish you the best of luck in Japan, the posts you have already made about the trip are stunning 🙂

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