Always With Me
Last summer, The Layers Project did a profile on my story of Infant Loss.
When I think about the few days that each part of the profile was released, I think about how nervous I felt as it was starting.
Would people read it?
Did I even want people to read it?
Would people feel annoyed by my sharing?
Would people feel connected to what I was talking about?
Would I trigger someone and put them into a tailspin of emotion?
Would anyone comment?
Shira warned me that there was no way to know what would happen; that each profile garnered different reactions. I didn’t know what to expect and that made me anxious.
Then the process began. Shira texted me when she was ready to post and said, “Ok, here we go.”
And so we did. Together. She posted and I shared.
Wow. The reaction was crazy. So many people commented on both the LP page and on my personal page. I received so many private messages. My own close friends and neighbors who knew the ending of the story I was telling were equally engaged. Some of them didn’t know the details of what had happened and what I had experienced and were texting me to connect and to say they were listening.
At one point on day two of publishing the profile online, I was texting with Shira and telling her about how weirdly calm I felt, even though my guts were being shared with the world and my phone was pinging every three seconds. She said something that really made an impression on me, “Aliza this is the first time that you have been receiving condolences. Maybe this is a part of your mourning. You were not able to publicly mourn your babies that you lost. With each text, private message, and comment; the existence of your babies is being validated. They existed and now the world knows and acknowledges that they were here. For them, and for you.”
I shed a lot of tears at that moment – their existence in our lives had purpose. I shared their story as much as I was sharing mine. I used the experience of loss to be there for others.
Shira and Rachel went over the details of my story and checked in with me about what I wanted to say, what felt safe for me to share, and what was better for me to have left unsaid. I only shared what was healthy for me. Even in the middle of publishing the profile, Shira and Rachel were consulting with each other and with me, to check in on how I was doing and evaluating how the audience was dealing with my very heavy and painful story. We added more on the go until it felt just right. I really felt like we were working as a team to say what I really needed to say and what the readers might also need to hear.
Since the profile came out people have contacted me; stopped me at weddings, supermarkets, and in shul. Many women were just expressing how refreshing it was to have someone share their struggles without fear or embarrassment. Many women have come over and whisper to me that they, too, had had a miscarriage or stillbirth and had never ever spoken about it. They didn’t know where to put their emotions at the time.
One woman told me it had been 40 years since her loss and she cried about it for the first time after reading my profile. When it happened to her, her family and friends told her not to think about it; just to move on and only focus on her children that she had at home with her. She had these sad feelings, guilt, and anxiety; all these years and didn’t connect them until she read the profile.
Shira was my student in a school I only taught in it for one year; it was an hour from my house and I worked very long hours. Hashem knew I needed to meet her and that we needed to be connected so that she could encourage me while I told this story. So I could find the meaning that I was searching for. What she has done for me, she and Rachel have done for so many. The Layers Project and the profiles they create of Jewish women are inspiring, real, relatable and so important in our world.
This month of October has been pregnancy and infant loss awareness month. All month long I have felt this strange mix of emotions. Yom Tov with my girls and my husband, family, and friends was special and uplifting. Yet, there are always moments when I think about the babies that I carried that are not with me during those moments.
Kol Hanaarim has always been emotional for me. When I was an older single, a married woman who had lost babies and not yet had any. Even as a mom now, thinking of those who I have lost while celebrating and davening for my sweet girls that are here with me now.
This year, my youngest daughter was exhausted after kiddush; I knew she needed to sleep. So I put her in the stroller and left the shul so she could fall asleep while we walked around the block. I knew I would miss Kol Hanaarim but I also knew that this baby needed to sleep.
I told my husband to make sure my two big girls got under that tallis and to have the baby in mind. As I walked through my neighborhood I sang “Hamalach Hagoel” to my baby as she drifted to sleep; I knew I was singing to all of my babies. Both in heaven and on Earth.
They will always be with me.