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Friday, February 06, 2009

miscarriage 1: corrupt or incompetent management; esp; a failure in the administration of justice 2: expulsion of a human fetus before it is viable and esp. between the 12th and 28th week of gestation

miscarry 1: obs: to come to harm; 2: to suffer a miscarriage of a fetus, 3: to fail of the intended purpose : to go wrong or amiss

That’s what is says in my Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary. I was compelled to look it up because my wife miscarried two weeks ago. She had a miscarriage. And there’s been something gnawing at the back of my mind about this word, this event. I looked at my wife, suffering the loss and seeing her adding to her suffering by feeling – at first – like she was at fault, that perhaps she was a failure, that it was she who was lacking. And I too found myself wondering, “Was it my sperm that was defective?” And yet, just about everyone we speak to has either gone through a miscarriage (or two or three…) or is close to someone – a friend or relative who has. I’ve read that 1 in 25 pregnancies end in miscarriage, but from what I am hearing from those I know, it seems like it could be even more prevalent.

That first definition, as “something corrupt or incompetent,” applied to the “expulsion of a human fetus before it is viable,” is probably what was behind my wife and I feeling some kind of personal failure. And I now understand that it is simply not true or appropriate. Yes, our intended purpose has gone amiss, but something else was born of the experience.

Ever since the very happy day we found out my wife was pregnant, I could barely contain my joy. AND, at the very same time, I felt a deep sense of – not ‘dread’ or ‘foreboding,’ but something sobering. I’ve been practicing and teaching Buddhadharma for many years now, and impermanence and uncertainty are teachings that have always had a big impact on me. And once we knew we were ‘expecting,’ the truth that we had no idea what to expect became only too clear.

I began to feel my mortality in a new way. I’m no Spring Chicken, so I thought about the possibility that this child we were bringing into the world would not have a father for anything like what I have had. I also felt the truth of my wife’s mortality. Every time she would get in the car to drive to work, I’d feel the truth that I had no certainty of seeing her again deep in the pit of my stomach. When she’d be climbing and tumbling overhead in an aerial silk routine, I would feel a strange mixture of pride, admiration of her strength and beauty, and a kind of trepidation, a lump in my throat throughout her whole performance until she was safely on the ground again!

I don’t want you to think I was a mass of fear and anxiety. That is far from true. I simply felt the truth of the Five Remembrances in yet a whole new way:

1. I am of the nature to age. There is no way to avoid aging.
2. I am of the nature to have ill health. There is no way to avoid having ill health.
3. I am of the nature to die. There is no way to avoid death.
4. All whom I love, and all that I hold dear are of the nature to change. There is no way to avoid being separated from them
5. My actions are my only true belongings. There is no way to avoid the consequences of my actions.

Though my wife was pregnant for just over 12 weeks, we had come to love the little one within. I engaged in some day-dreaming about what she (or he) might be like, and we tossed around possible names, but mostly, we seemed to simply feel the love for this unknown being in my wife’s womb, just as s/he was. Developing. Or so we thought. It turns out that this baby barely made it out of the embryo stage into fetal-hood.

And yet, just as the pregnancy itself put me in touch with the truth of impermanence and uncertainty, finding and hearing from so many others who have gone through the experience of miscarriage, and still birth, put us into intimate touch with the truth of death. And more than that – the intimate reality that birth/death, living/dying are not-two. It seemed like everytime I’d tell someone about the miscarriage, they would tell me of theirs, or of someone they knew who had miscarried. It reminded me of the story of Kisagotami, who clung to the corpse of her dead baby until everyone told her she should see the Buddha for his help. When she went to the Buddha, she asked him to bring her baby back to life. Out of compassion, the Buddha said to this bereft woman, “In order to bring your baby back to life, I need a handful of mustard seed. But it must be from a household that has not known death.”

Kisagotami was overjoyed at the prospect of her baby being brought back to life, but as she went from house to house, though everyone was eager to offer her the mustard seeds, but when Kisagotami asked if they had known anyone who had died, of course, she found that every household had lost family members. Slowly, the truth dawned for Kisagotami. She went back to the Buddha, and finally able to let go of her child, she took refuge with the Buddha and eventually became a fully enlightened Arhat.

This pregnancy of ours did not go as planned or hoped. But who knows what the ‘purpose’ was or is for this miscarriage? All I know is that the whole experience – of pregnancy and the miscarriage – has brought home the truth of the human condition; of the condition of all beings. I also know that if we ever do have a child, I will be a better father, more awake, and less likely to take him or her for granted. This child may not have manifested as we had hoped, but our love continues to grow, and for as long as this is true, s/he continues to live. And that’s why we decided to call this child whose coming and going is truly a non-coming and non-going Satya. Truth.

And when we held our Jijang Posal ceremony for children who have died, we buried the embryo and planted a fig tree, from which, one day, others will perhaps enjoy the fruit.

.: posted by Poep Sa Frank Jude 11:39 PM

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