Memoir of an Honest Miscarriage
Isabel Allende, a writer from Chile described a memoir as a written account which forces one to stop and remember carefully. She explained, “…in a memoir, I look at myself, my life, and the people I love the most in the mirror of the blank screen.” She adds the wisdom that “writing feelings are more important than the facts because in writing how honest you feel confronts demons” which are what memoir writing can often be about.
Making to-do lists, and analyzing the priorities on our journey, as well as recording events, appointments, and reminders in our daily calendars are all a form of memoir writing. However, there are actual stories within all of us and the memories you want to savor, share, or simply shift into a more positive light is the process of writing a memoir. And yes, often memories of the past involve unearthing painful situations in order to accept them, learn from them, and move on.
I’ve been journalizing for years, privately keeping my memories, but I have learned how powerful it can be to share memoirs. It allows others to feel companionship, and gain wisdom that often heals themselves. In my journey, I have read Nicholas Sparks’ A WALK TO REMEMBER, and Louise Hayes’s YOU CAN HEAL YOUR LIFE, and Stephen King’s ON WRITING, each has guided my journey.
American author and journalist Jeannette Walls describes why sharing stories are important. Whether a memoir, or a fictional tale inspired from your own life, Ms. Walls said, “A memoir is about handing your life to someone and saying this is what I went through, this is who I am, and maybe you can learn something from it.”
Many years ago, I began writing my own family history. Beginning when my great great grandmother was born. As I researched, I asked family members their recollections and I found myself thinking of her and her life. Stella Liqouri was born in Italy, married Biaglio Capuano, and died giving birth to her fifth child. Her oldest daughter Cora was only eight years old at the time and became my great grandmother in 1970.
One night after I wrote the memory of Stella’s death, I dreamt of her. I awoke at 3am with an urge to write down the words she told me as she embraced me with her silver glittered covered arms.
She said, “Angela, though I died, I am with my child who couldn’t be born on earth. For on earth, it is difficult to survive with angel wings displayed on the outside. But dear child that was then, and in your lifetime, life will still have difficulties but know you will survive. Modern medicine has come a long way. My journey is not yours. My journey now lives within your heart, and it will always remain for we are family. Cora knew this, and your grandmother too, and you shall experience it to also share our memoirs to help others. For now, know my memoir of birthing an angel, and dying is to reassure you that though you may one day experience a death of an angel, remind yourself it is a birth into heaven’s holy kingdom; and you are merely a vessel.”
I tucked this story into my journal knowing one day I would use it in a story, however, little did I know that when I suffered a miscarriage a year after that dream, the words of my great great grandmother, Stella, would bring me more comfort than any book I could find.
I learned my baby’s heartbeat was gone within the words of an ultrasound technician as she removed an ultrasonic wand from my vagina. “I’m sorry, this pregnancy is unhealthy.” I felt destined that history was repeating itself. Unable to acknowledge the news, I was ushered to the doctor’s office where he scheduled the procedure to remove the pregnancy. My body wasn’t releasing the blighted ovum, the empty sack which my baby’s spirit remained in. The doctor told me that I needed a D & C. I was devastated, I wanted more proof the baby was dead, and I wanted to put a coat hanger in my vagina to remove the dead fetus which I had been carrying.
It was an awful five days to lie in bed waiting for the procedure. I was mourning, wishing, hoping and coming to realize that if the pregnancy didn’t pass, I could die from the quiet symptomless sepsis poisoning that I was enduring. Was this what happened to Stella? I cried for her, mourning her own loss, and rereading my journal. Stella had said, “…one day I might experience a death of an angel.” I rubbed my belly, feeling honored, but also desperately crying “Why? Why me? Why my family again? Why must a child die?”
Alone and uncomfortable in my bed and in my body, I thought of how blessed Stella was to have died during childbirth, and not having to live life knowing her baby died. But then in a flash, I thought of her children Cora, Billy, and Rose; and her husband Biaglio. Tears poured for their loss. She wasn’t blessed to have died; she hadn’t been saved. I realized in that moment; I was being saved. I had an opportunity to have a D & C, though the term D & C made me cringe. It made me think the doctors were forcing me to have an abortion. However, deep in my heart there was a piece of me that was thankful that I wouldn’t die.
Great Grandmother Stella was right, I was a vessel for an angel. An angel created within me, a part of me; created in love with my husband, yet not able to ever live on earth in a human form.
I mourned silently and alone, as well as rejoiced with a silent thanksgiving that modern medicine discovered the pregnancy was unhealthy before my vessel went septic and caused me to die.
In 1930, there were no ultrasound machines, nor heartbeat monitors, nor were there professional ways to have a D&C. Horror fill my veins as I considered all she went through. Did Stella even know she was pregnant? I found out later from family members that she did know she was pregnant. She had begun cramping and went to the hospital assuming she was miscarrying. The truth was the baby died weeks prior. During a forced delivery she died giving birth in her second trimester to a stillborn baby. They were buried in the same casket, laid to rest in St. Michael’s Cemetery.
I wouldn’t be buried. I would survive. I felt stronger because she shared her story with me. That is why writing memoirs are important. Someone, somewhere needs your story to learn from, resonate with, and most of all receive wisdom. That someone might just be you!
Author Margaret Atwood, the author of THE HANDMAID'S TALE shared that with me in an online MasterClass in 2019 that “Every story ever written has happened somewhere in the world, and not everything in (her) stories occurred in (her) world.” So, remember, embellish, relish, enhance, and most of all be honest with your spirit.
All stories are created from memories, some personal, some overheard, and still some just imagined.
These are the keys to writing a truly honest memoir.