RITUAL: A Journey from “Infertile!” to Choosing “Child-Free”
I have been on a 6-year odyssey to make a baby with my husband. This included all the usual
methods(!), as well as fertility treatments like taking the drug Clomiphene. We were not
successful in our quest and last year we decided to “stop trying.” While my husband more or less
happily moved on to start his new business, I felt stuck. I had poured my whole heart and soul
into making a baby and now that we were done with that chapter of our lives, I realized I had no
idea what came next.
Sometimes the things we can’t change end up changing us.
Tristy’s Ritual: Grief, Shiva, and the UN-Baby Shower
March 3-11, 2012
Needless to say, Tristy’s grief began long before March 3rd. And her extensive efforts to move beyond her grief brought her to my home one morning, early in February. She began the conversation with a wise pronouncement: “I get it now – and it’s hard to ask – but this requires a ritual. My grief isn’t going to leave until I ask for help from my community, and from a deeper source.”
Why was it hard to make this request? Why, when women are so quick to shower one another with advice and gifts and mothering tips for those pregnant with little humans, have we not also found ways to celebrate, tend and care for the ones who incubate ideas, gestate projects, birth artwork, tend gardens, rear nieces, nephews, neighbors?
Maybe it’s because we haven’t first acknowledged the sadness that comes from attempting and failing at one’s birthright: making a child. Infertility is a shame magnet, and choosing to live and love in ways that doesn’t include bearing children often mystifies. And so began an exploration of acknowledging the grief, honoring a time for transition, and celebrating a willful choice. Here’s how Tristy’s ritual went.
Saturday, March 3rd: Giving Up the Grief
Like giving up the ghost, the women who gathered late Saturday afternoon were there to support Tristy in fully expressing the sorrow, disappointment, and rage she’d been holding as a result of her six years of trying and failing to conceive a child.
In the safety of twilight and with the guidance of Tristy’s talented priestess and friend,Lila, who offered her comfortable home, Tristy and a handful of wise women gathered to meditate, drum, and mourn. The women, each in turn, invited her uterus to speak – and Oh, the stories! Details of the night were held in sacred confidence by the ears that listened….and ultimately each one was surrendered to an Oak Grove, where it was understood the trees could transform it all. When it was over, Tristy’s husband,Justinretrieved her, taking her home for a week of resting in what was, and in what would become….
For the next 7 days and 8 nights, Tristy sat Shiva, a Jewish custom following death. To experience more of this part of the ritual, you may wish to read Tristy’s blog.
Sunday, March 11th: Tristy’s UN-Baby Shower
The flock of women who arrived at Tristy and Justin’s home Sunday morning arrived in precisely the fashion women do when they are showering a loved one — uproarious giggling and cooing, one arrival after another — alive, vibrant and a flourish of feminine chaos. As the gathering, greeting and welcoming continued, Chef Justin wowed everyone us with a delicious brunch, featuring eggs (of course!!!!) and other bounty! Settling in with a round of introductions, the women were asked, and consensus was found: it was everyone’s FIRST UN-Baby Shower. In short order, unanimous agreement resulted: it was an important event. There were mothers and non-mothers in the room, each of them so grateful to be included, so moved by their friend’s courage, so willing to support Tristy in her choice to begin a new chapter as a child-free woman.
Each guest was asked to bring a quote from a woman who had not born children. Quotes ranged from Dolly Parton to Julia Childs to Whoopi Goldberg; and as the quotes were appreciated and celebrated, so too was Tristy’s body, with colorful body paints – not just her womb, but her back and her chest and each appendage.
We called upon each facet, capable of imagining, making and mothering new creations.
Tristy’s friends showered her with creativity-inviting gifts: art materials, plants, libations and recipes!
To finish the ritual, we asked Justin to join Tristy. Encircling them both, we acknowledged Justin’s role and voice as co-creator and co-parent both in what had been and in what will be. With hands upon Tristy and Justin, the community set sacred intentions for the couple’s next chapter. We prayed for surprise and delight and adventure in their choosing to be child-free. And then, we told them how much we loved them.
The UN-Baby Shower ended with some frolicking in the sun and a flower exchange (each woman brought a bouquet of flowers that were co-mingled and redistributed in bouquets to take home and enjoy.) Brilliant!