Monday, November 7, 2011

when you are sad, be sad

I haven't written here in several weeks. As I have mentioned in this space previously, the last couple of months have seen my family facing a series of obstacles that have arisen around our living situation, our livelihood, and our health. Things at times have been quite difficult, seemingly very immovable and unworkable, but somehow, we have found our way through. A bright spot in all of this was that after many months of trying, we discovered I was pregnant with a much wanted third baby. Because of all of the challenges we were experiencing, this third pregnancy felt like much more of a leap into groundlessness than our previous ones. But leap we did, as we all do when we open our hearts to life.
This past week, at almost 10 weeks along, I went in for an ultrasound my OB wanted in order to determine gestational age. During the exam, the technician told me that she couldn't find any fetal heartbeat.

We often think that enlightenment experiences are blissful, beautiful, gold tinged occasions that occur in a flowery meadow or on a mountain top or in a sacred meditation hall. We don't often think of them as occurring in a cold, clinical examination room with an ultrasound machine and an uncomfortable technician holding a latex gloved wand in her hand. But when we are faced with the stark fact of impermanence, of the reality of death and loss, we often experience an opening. Our usual torrent of habitual thought can be stopped, at least for a moment, and we can experience a kind of clarity and calm, when things as they are reveal themselves, naked, and completely vast. That is what happened when I heard "I can't find a heartbeat". It only lasted for a moment.

Immediately after that brief opening, the pain came. The sadness of losing a baby. The heartbreak of it, of watching all the aspirations, all the dreams pinned to the new life I carried so briefly. It is always so painful to have to let go of such hopes. To accept loss and the reality of the first noble truth - that life is full of suffering, and we suffer because of our constant desire to make permanent that which is inherently not.

Any loss we experience has been and will be experienced by countless other sentient beings. The nurse who took my vitals that morning told me of her own miscarriage when she was 17 weeks along with her first pregnancy. So many other women I know have had miscarriages, many more than one. I have friends who have lost children shortly after their birth, or years later. My own loss seemed so small when compared to all of those others. My heart is opening, breaking for so many other women and children.

"When Marpa's young son died, he cried so sadly that his disciples flocked around him and asked, "Master, didn't you say that the world is only an illusion? Why are you crying so brokenheartedly just because your son has died?"
Marpa answered them, "Yes, everything is illusionary, but the death of a child is the greatest illusion of them all."

At times like this one, it can seem important to find a reason, an answer to why this happened in order to prevent it from happening again, I suppose. But like all blossoming of karma, there are so many causes and conditions that lead to this, that it is impossible to tease out the what and why of it. We can surmise, guess, and so on, but to try and pinpoint, try and build some ground from what is inherently groundless, only causes further pain and is illusory at best. All my husband and I can do that is really useful is to keep touching our sadness, to just be sad when it arises. To not avoid it or cover it up, or elaborate upon it. To just be sad.

And to be happy when that comes as well. My eldest son turned three the day after we got the news of our loss, and we went forward with a nice birthday party for him, with guests and cake and balloons, all as he requested. And we allowed ourselves to be present to his joy and the joy of his brother during the festivities. We are exerting ourselves in cultivating appreciation - appreciation of what we have, of our two little boys and the goodness they weave each day into our lives. And when reminded of the vastness of loss, the knowledge that all beings lose those they love, both born and unborn, we are touching our tender, broken hearts, and sending our love out to everyone.

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