Oh joy I’m having a baby, everyone is looking forward to the unknown – Joy, anticipation of the explosion of love . But what happens when you don’t have a baby? The Big Taboo.
I remember during my 3rd pregnancy sitting in the waiting room. I got a sinking feeling in my womb, a cramp- Oh no its that feeling – the feeling I’ve had before- don’t say anything – It’ll be alright, it can’t happen again, it wouldn’t be fair. I’m in a waiting room full of baby bellies and exited future parents looking forward to cooing over the moving image of the content of their wombs. We enter the scanning room. The nurse pronounces my name incorrectly and I correct her ( often I don’t bother – why do I this time?) I’m glad I did. She scans, she scans ,she looks, she looks again she says ” Sorry Rachele, I just need to go and get someone, I can’t see baby’s heartbeat” I knew it! Oh how could it be happening again. That unspoken horror. My partner looks stunned, he hasn’t been here before. Now the unspoken taboo has to walk back through the pregnant waiting room. I see the fear on the faces of those who notice me passing them, I feel their terror. I’m led to the consultants office to see the scan of my perfectly formed but dead baby. I know the statistics that are skimmed over at the booking appointment. I am struck by the clinical sterility of this experience and fear what I now know I have to face, the passing of my dead foetus and the reaction of friends and family as I tell them of the loss and they grieve.
A few years earlier I had my first encounter with Mother Holda. Never heard of her? She’s rarely mentioned. She is a Germanic deity, the Goddess who comes to take away and care for the unborn and the still born, on their journey to the next world, the midwife of miscarriage. She is rarely mentioned in the esoteric lists of Goddesses until she visits you.
So where is the Tattoo? A couple of years ago my 8 year old drew a wonderful picture of a heart with Mum written on it, it had trees and faces coming out of it. What struck me was how it reminded me of those tattoos you see on hard men, big men, Mum tattooed on their arms. I felt the love, the sentimentality of those skin deep tributes to their Mothers; the beauty in those marks, those tattoos and I felt overwhelmed by the love I have for my children, those born and unborn.
On my visit to look round the maternity suite in preparation for the birth of my youngest child I noticed a tattoo on one of the’ other ladies’- that’s midwife/hospital speak- A young child’s portrait, the child’s name, their date of birth and their date of death. The death of a child born or unborn is a taboo. Often it’s difficult to articulate, people are scared to talk about it in case they catch it or upset you. It leaves a permanent mark on us, inside of us, like the marks of the external tattoo Mum (heart) or the Name, DoB/DoD of a lost child on your skin.