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Lions Roar : September 2019
A new baby, one for each of us. A mended heart. Hope for the future. “A pint of caprese salad.” He gave me the salad with a sad smile. “I hope your day goes okay. Hang in there.” “You too,” I told him. “You too.” Everywhere I went I saw babies. But everywhere I went, too, I heard stories of death, of loss. On the news, refugee children starved by the hundreds, the thousands. As I drove over the wind- ing road from my house to Muir Beach, I passed a roadside altar, covered with flowers, where some mother’s teenage girl drove her car off the edge of a cliff. I looked at the eyes of the people I met—the checkout clerk at CVS. The bank teller. What tragedies had they lived through? What stories of loss, of heart- break, did they carry with them? How did we human beings get up every morning, put on our shoes, and head out the door, when the world was in flames all around us? Six weeks after Sierra died, we met with the doctor to discuss the results of her autopsy. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any answers for you,” she told us. “The baby was completely normal. The cord was normal. The placenta was normal as well. In these cases, all we can assume is that there might have been what we call a cord accident. Somehow, she got into a posi- tion where her body cut off the flow of circulation through the umbilical cord.” There’s a classic meditation in Bud- dhism where you’re instructed to meditate on the thirty-seven parts of the body: head hair, body hair, nails, skin, teeth... It’s supposed to bring about detachment. I looked down at the sheaf of papers she had handed me and flipped through it, wincing at the intimate, graphic account of my baby’s body: her brain, her lungs, her liver, her colon, her genitals, her spine. All laid bare by the coroner’s knife. All of them normal—or, in the words of the autopsy report, “grossly unremarkable.” We asked our doctor about our chances for another pregnancy. “Having a stillbirth once does not increase your likelihood of having one again.” She laid out all the things the doc- tors could do next time around to sup- port a healthy pregnancy and delivery. The words flowed by me: “triple screen,” “quadruple screen,” “stress testing . . .” “With an amniocentesis we can test for over fifteen hundred genetic and chro- mosomal disorders,” she told me brightly. If this was supposed to reassure me, it didn’t work. On the screen of my mind were playing thousands of things that I hadn’t known could go wrong. Things that hadn’t gone wrong with Sierra—but might with a future baby. That night my husband left for a busi- ness trip, and I was alone in the house. I felt sad that Sierra’s ashes were all alone in her empty bedroom. I got the jar and brought it to bed with me. I held it in my arms, and kissed the lid, and cried. “I love you,” I said to the jar. I thought: You are truly flipping out. You are a crazy lady, alone in the house, talking to her dead baby’s ashes. I got up and carried them out to the liv- ing room and set them on the mantle, next to my wedding bouquet of dried roses. HOT OFF THE PRESS From: THE MAMA SUTRA A Story of Love, Loss, and the Path of Motherhood By Anne Cushman Shambhala Publications; 240 pages, paperback, $16.95 UPAYA.ORG SANTA FE, NM 505-986-8518 ext. 112 REGISTRAR@UPAYA.ORG The resident body is the heart of Upaya’s deep field of practice. Together we engage in meditation, liturgy, work practice, sesshins, and a diverse course of study that includes Buddhist philosophy, Zen arts, and contemplative science. Apply online or contact us at: email@example.com. september 27 - october 27 Fall Pr actice Period The Diamond Sutra S , Sensei S alma, M ozan Palevsky november 8 - 10 Four Noble Truths: Simple Teachings for Extraordinary Times Rev. angel Kyodo williams, Sensei november 14 - 17 Emptiness and Compassion: Shantideva and the Bodhisattva Practice J Workshops & Retreats Residency at Upaya LION’S ROAR | SEPTEMBER 2019 78