Found In: Pregnancy Loss
By Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
Releasing my poems allowed me to offer love and care to other women who suffer miscarriage.
Some years ago I flew to Colorado for OHALAH, the annual gathering of Jewish Renewal clergy and student clergy, carrying a dazzling secret: I was newly-pregnant. When I danced at kabbalat Shabbat services, I was already imagining what it would be like to bring an infant with me the following year. And then I went to bed feeling uneasy with cramps, and woke to blood everywhere.
That Shabbat was endless, and it was awful. What I remember most about that terrible day was the way that—as word spread—woman after woman came up to me to tell me it had happened to her, too. I had unknowingly joined a club of which many of my friends and teachers were already members. Once, twice, three times … Each of them had stories to tell, and though they could not offer healing, there was comfort in knowing that I was not alone—that so many other women carried this invisible scar.
A colleague offered to orchestrate a formal ritual to help me grieve the loss. I thought about it, and said “no.” My sorrow was too raw. I wasn't ready.
Instead, I went that day to a seudah shlishit (the ceremonial "third meal" of Shabbat) held at mincha-time, the hour when tradition says redemption is most palpably accessible to us. As we sang psalm 23, which is traditional for that hour of that day, I experienced it as a funeral song for the life which had been lost. I wept, and the pain seemed unbearable, but I was grateful to be held by the loving presence of my community. They grieved with me.
I met with my spiritual director later that week. Over the course of our conversation, he asked me whether I thought I could pour out my sorrow in a psalm. I promised that I would try. And on the plane heading home, I started to try to respond to the miscarriage in words.
I wrote ten poems over the next few months, and honed them with the help of trusted readers. Two months later, I released them into the world in two editions: a free downloadable e-chapbook, and a printed chapbook which I sold at cost, titled "Through." Putting the poems out into the world allowed me to offer love and care to other women who suffer miscarriage. Near as I can tell, my son —who is now three—was conceived the week after I released "Through."
Each of us who miscarries has to find her own path through. But I'm grateful to have rituals and prayers available to help us navigate these waters, and to help us bring sanctity to our grief. Miscarriage means the loss of a dream, the loss of an imagined life, and we owe it to ourselves and to the potential which was lost to wholly grieve and then to emerge again to life.
Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, ordained by ALEPH in 2011, serves a small congregation in western Massachusetts. She is author of 70 faces (Phoenicia, 2011) as well as the forthcoming Waiting to Unfold (Phoenicia, 2013), a collection of motherhood poems. She blogs at Velveteen Rabbi.