An End and a New Beginning
My “Why”: A story in parts
PART I – An end and a new beginning
“Heather, I can’t find a heartbeat,” said the midwife, as she moved the fetal monitor around my belly, now carrying my child who was overdue by two weeks. I had just stepped into a birthing tub in the living room of our quaint mountain cabin as labor became more intense. My husband of six years, and two dear friends of ours were gathered around offering tender support.
The midwife shifted the monitor a few times. “Maybe, it needs new batteries,” she said. But my gut told me something wasn’t right.
Earlier that day, following a long night of labor that had trailed off in the wee hours of the morning, I had taken a much-needed nap before going to our annual Christmas dinner party. I’d awoken with a start to my dog and cat snuggled up to my belly looking concerned. My dog had whined and paced until I’d let him on the bed to nap with me. The cat was equally anxious for some reason. When I turned over from my nap, the baby shifted in an odd way and fear shot through me. I convinced myself I was just paranoid. This was my first experience and I knew that all new moms had weird feelings and dreams, just as I’d had. So, I shrugged it off.
Now, as the midwife changed the batteries, a sinking feeling came over me. What if?... No, truly it must be the batteries. But, again, no heartbeat.
I’d gone into labor at 7pm, in the middle of the best Scrabble game of my life (winning with a score of 350). We’d just shared the most sumptuous Italian dinner to celebrate the Christmas season with our co-workers and neighbors on the ranch where my husband and I lived year-round. But when labor began this time, I didn’t want to say anything for fear of a repeat from the night before. So, I rode out the contractions.
My husband and I had married during my Sophomore year in college. He was a wily, passionate, romantic, brooding Australian. When we met, all my words abandoned me, his exotic accent wrapping its melody around my tongue left me stuttering. Quickly his sunshine ringed ocean-colored eyes ensnared my dreams of graduating college and saving the world. We married in Australia a year after we fell in love.
Real life had rapidly set in once we moved back to the States, and we couldn’t afford to stay in school. We moved out West and ended up at a ranch in the mountain valley that had stolen my heart a few years earlier when I was in high school. We built a quiet, beauty-filled, peaceful life in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Most days felt like a dream with various adventures throughout the Southwest. But there was always a tension in our marriage – a low-level anxious buzz of discontent.
The summer I was pregnant and working in the hot Colorado sun running a horsemanship program for young kids, my husband met another staff member. By the end of the summer, he would repeatedly lie about the nature of their relationship as it grew into passion and fixation. But he had been quite different for a couple months leading up to this affair – to the degree that I had looked at him and asked, “Who are you and what did you do with my husband.”
Research shows that the second most likely time that a man will cheat on his wife is when she is pregnant. And our story was no exception.
But my personal story was.
As tragic as it all seemed and felt – and it was heart-wrenching, lonely, and terrifying much of the time – I couldn’t escape a deeper, clearer sense that I was entering an incredibly important journey. I thought that was the journey of motherhood.
“We are here to awaken from the illusion of our separation.” This bumper sticker (a quotation from Thich Nat Hahn) I’d seen the summer before I was pregnant, resonated deeply with me. I’ve always been a spiritual seeker and had loved my faith background which taught me that I was a whole reflection of perfect divine Love, God. But, since childhood, I’d felt separate from this Love to a degree that I felt incredibly flawed and unworthy of that unearned and unquestioning Love.
Immediately before my husband seemed to go AWOL in our relationship (months before the affair), I had reached out in prayer with an open heart asking to be shown what I needed to address in myself to be the best mother I could be. What flaws, habits, and illusions did I need to release and change? “I’m willing to let go of any illusion making me feel separate from divine Love.” I said out loud in my cozy cabin.
Then, as great tales like to say, “All hell broke loose.”
My ever-loving husband, who had been my best friend for seven years, and always created a romantic home environment for me with candlelit dinners, vases of wild flowers, poetry reading, cozy fires, hot baths after work, was replaced by a seeming stranger. His tone became harsh and critical. And his behavior went right along with it. I truly didn’t recognize him.
This made life extremely lonely, and at a time when I had dreamed we would be closer than ever. But what this human emotional separation did for my spiritual growth would become an extraordinary blessing in disguise. I quickly realized that I needed to reach for a love that was much bigger than the love of a single person. I began my journey into knowing Love and myself in a very different way.
During these months my intuition sharpened unlike anything I’d ever known. When my husband began lying to me about this growing relationship with another woman, something awoke in me that I hadn’t known up to that point. But because I had given him so much power during our relationship, I took his word that I was imagining things.
The final month of pregnancy, I gave him an ultimatum – I needed to leave and move in with friends or this relationship needed to come to an end. This was after speaking with both him and the woman he was seeing. I really felt a sense of being cared for by this infinite, unfailing Love I was getting to know. My comments to him had no self-pity, but an awareness that this was not the right environment to be bringing my child into. So it either needed to change or I needed to relocate to a place that was supportive and healthy.
This seemed to shake things up a little, and he decided he wanted to become a parent with me. The relationship ended and it was like having my real husband back again. So supportive, loving, humorous, respectful and kind.
“Will it make a difference if we go to the hospital now or may we have time to process what is happening?” I asked the midwife. “I would like to pray and be with my child a little longer as we watch the sunrise.”
She said there was nothing they could do medically at this point to save my son. The closest hospital was a 40-minute drive.
I called my mom and let her know something was wrong, but that I was ok and praying and just needed her to know. Then I sat in the rocking chair I had been held by my whole pregnancy. The sky-blue painted wood creaked beneath my burdened body as I found the comforting rhythm I’d had for several sunrises over the previous months. I’d daydreamed about this being a time of nursing, singing to my baby.
I love how the first light always feels like a promise of newness and a chance to start fresh. This moment felt like a heartbreaking ending. But in the same place – paradoxically – it also felt like a beginning of something I could not yet discern.
The sun rose and I said I was ready to go. We drove to the hospital quietly through the brightening valley. It was oddly warm for a December morning at 8,000 feet elevation.
The events that transpired in that hospital room changed me forever. The unbounded love and encouragement the hospital staff and my small circle of loved ones gave me as I labored buoyed me. But it was so much more than this. There was a presence I had never before known. It energized, strengthened, and carried me through. I felt the oneness with divine Love I’d been told about my whole life. And not just I, but every person in the delivery room commented on this loving presence that they couldn’t explain.
During the labor, I saw a vision of my son. Up to that point, I truly thought I was having a girl. But here was this precious face with his father’s eyes and a head of unruly, curly hair. He was beaming and waving, standing next to our dog who had disappeared a few years before. An all-absorbing sense of joy like I’d never experienced, and a deep knowing that “All is well” filled me to overflowing. William was born a half hour later.
Through an incredible movement of heaven and earth and through the kindness of incredible strangers, we were permitted to leave the hospital with our son with permission to bury him at home. This allowed for a sense of closure, holding him and rocking him as the sun rose. I sang an old folksong called, “Water is Wide” that I’d been learning because I so badly wanted to be one of those moms who sings to her children.
We buried him that afternoon surrounded with so much love, it makes me teary to write this now. The next day, the sun was so warm, my husband and I went to a favorite spot on the river. This river had been my safe place – the place I would go to release fear and doubt and anger and resentment over the past few months. Whenever the burden had become too much I would head to the river.
My husband got a cedar fire going and put on some hot chocolate. We laid on a blanket looking up at the bluebird sky. During the hours we spent in that moment, a new possibility began to take root. “If you could do anything right now, and you didn’t have this sadness and money was no object, what would you do?”
Before I had a moment to think, these words flew out of my mouth: “I would go back and finish college.” This realization shook me. I laughed it off, picturing myself waltzing into school wearing maternity overalls and learning with a bunch of older teens and twenty-somethings.
But moving to the icy Midwest, in January, is exactly what I did…
<Thank you for reading and please stay tuned for PART II>
Heather Barron is the Founder of Luminous Life, and Luminous Ceremonies. She is an Integral Life Coach, Marriage Celebrant and Wedding Officiant whose sole goal is to thread more light and spread more joy in the world. She does this through life coaching, designing and officiating weddings and ceremonies of all kinds, writing fiction and non-fiction, hiking in her beloved Colorado Rocky Mountains with her precious pup, by listening deeply to others, and by smiling with love and kindness everywhere she goes. Learn more and become a fan by clicking on the social media icons below! Thanks for reading!