Will you leave your friend to walk alone?
Writer, poet, therapist and researcher, Dianna Vagianos Armentrout offers a poignant and realistic view of life and death as she shares the grief of losing a newborn child in Walking the labyrinth of my heart.
The author knew for months that her baby would not live. This foreknowledge gives an interesting perspective—to carry a life that is somehow called defective, wondering who or what to blame, and receiving in answer the uncertainties of medicine. As the author so poignantly says, “It is very difficult to live with pregnancy and infant loss in our hyper-electronic, fast-paced, death-fearing American culture.”
In the first section of this book, Dianna shares her pregnancy journal. She describes her choice not to terminate the pregnancy, and her curiosity about how her dying child is growing. Flowers and church make her “sadder.” Books about having an angel instead of a baby depress her even more. Her Qigong teacher tells her to “let go of all expectations,” but she is expecting, and she thinks reverently of Mary, “her womb holding God.”
Readers of many spiritual backgrounds and religious persuasions will find much food for thought in this book. Those facing the same sense of loss will find a friend walking beside them—no trite answers, no judgment, no “spend time with the baby before it dies” over-simplifications—this book offers honest complexities and sorrow. Throughout it all, the author knows her child is alive; she has a soul and a reason to be. And she invites readers to ponder both.
Essays and blog posts follow the path of grieving and praying, faith and miracles, fate and karma, and even politics. Drawing on backgrounds as far apart as Greek mythology and Catholic catechism, each essay stands alone, smoothly written and smiting to the heart. It’s impossible to read this book without being drawn into deeper thought about faith, science, morality and more. Is abortion the same as refusing life support, or faith the same as demanding a miracle?
Birthing a dying child has many complications, not all of them emotional. The author walks her readers through each step of her path, negotiating with doctors and hospitals, learning how to stop a mother’s milk, hiring a doula, avoiding pitfalls of social media and unsocial responses, bringing up the name of the dead, and understanding death. At the same time, the author never attempts to persuade her readers; other choices will be equally valid; each decision is personal and unique.
Giving birth to a dying child is like “standing on the threshold of the worlds,” birthing a soul into or out of this world, accepting “the bramble and the rose.” I am glad it’s not something I’ve ever done. But I am glad as well to have read this book. The writing is smooth, like listening to a wise counsellor. The poetry is haunting and enticing. The story is honest, the wisdom gentle and far-reaching, and the “art of grieving” is a lesson all should learn.
Disclosure: I was given an ecopy and I offer my honest review.
Dianna’s pregnancy with her daughter, Mary Rose, who died an hour after birth of trisomy 18, changed her life completely. Her blog, Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart, was launched in April 2015 as a way of offering support to others going through pregnancies with difficult and fatal diagnoses.
Dianna wishes to change the cultural fear of death and social awkwardness around the bereaved by educating others to be present and open to the natural process of death. Not knowing what to say is fine. Let’s sit together quietly not knowing what to say about our most difficult and sacred losses, because a loving community is vital to the healing of the bereaved in our broken world.
Dianna volunteers with Isaiah’s Promise as a peer minister, and can’t help sending “Healing Companion” cards to mothers facing pregnancy and newborn losses.
Dianna’s poems, short fiction and essays have been published in several journals and anthologies, including The Vermont Literary Review, The Connecticut Review, The Dos Passos Review, Melusine or Women in the 21st century, Sacred Fire Magazine, Sensations Magazine, and Inkwell. She has taught at Southern Connecticut State University, Quinnipiac University and The Graduate Institute, and has facilitated poetry workshops in the tri-state area. As a poet and teacher, she believes that everyone has the inherent gift of poetry. Her workshops create the space for people to be still and access their own words, images and metaphors as they step into their healing. She lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. When she isn’t writing or reading, she spends her time outdoors walking and gardening. Dianna also tinkers with recipes for paleo cookies and shares them with those around her.
Where to find her:Website: www.diannavagianos.com
About the book:Publisher: White Flowers Press (May 22, 2016)
Category: Self-Help, Grief & Bereavement, Parenting & Relationships, Spirituality, Healing from Loss
ISBN: 978-0982117644 ASIN: B01I2KD37Q
Available in Print & ebook, 130 pages
Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Infant Death breaks the lonely, silent suffering of bereaved mothers facing infant and pregnancy loss.
Dianna Vagianos Armentrout details her pregnancy journey with her daughter, Mary Rose, who died an hour after birth of trisomy 18, a random genetic illness described as “incompatible with life.” For five long months of pregnancy, she knew that her baby would not live and thrive, planning a funeral and seeking hospice for her unborn daughter. The heaviness of this grief, which most women bear alone, is shared here and will comfort mothers who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death.
With eloquent language, fierce honesty and a record of the rawness of grief, readers in the midst of their own suffering will recognize the path that bereaved parents walk. Dianna’s experiences with infertility, motherhood, infant loss and miscarriage infuse her writing with compassion for all women. Through journal entries, essays and poetry, Dianna invites the reader to process grief and honor the life of the child, no matter how brief. In addition, readers will learn how to support the bereaved by remembering the baby and pregnancy.
Finally there is a book to honor the pregnancy, baby and loss, loving the children past their death, loving the wombs that nurtured them and accepting the sacred path of mothering children whose bodies are broken, but whose souls are intact and perfectly whole. This book shines with love and the knowledge that even the briefest life is holy. Read it. Share it. Spread the word. We no longer have to grieve our infants and pregnancies alone.
Where to find itAmazon
Praise for Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart by Dianna Vagianos Armentrout“This beautifully written story of loss, and redemption, is a must-have for anyone who has faced the devastation of losing a child. Yes, you will cry with Dianna, but you will also admire the beauty of her soul.”- Mary Potter Kenyon, author of ‘Refined By Fire’, ‘Chemo-Therapist’, ‘Mary and Me’, et al
“Pregnancy is often thought of (and typically is) a time filled anticipation and joy. The deep, dark secret is this: pregnancies are sometimes lost. Dianna Vagianos Armentrout, author of Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart, shows us the inner workings of that harsh reality. With beauty and rawness, she shows the innermost parts of her heart as she journeyed (and journeys) through the "diagnosis" of a Trisomy 18 baby. She shows us her emails, journals, poems, and the "art" of grieving. She explains that the loss of a child is not the end of loving that child. Nor is the grief something that goes away a few weeks after the funeral. It is a heartfelt and honest read that I would highly recommend to any woman who has dealt or is dealing with a defect. It would also be beneficial to any woman who is dealing with the loss of a baby. Dianna writes the way her spirit is: open, raw, beautiful. She walks with every mother who has ever lost a child.”- Gloria Miles, Simple Miricles Birth Services
“Dianna Vagianos Armentrout takes the grief and heartache of her journey and creates a space that opens hearts. Dianna has written a seminal book that will resonate with those who know the primal pain of losing a child from stillbirth, miscarriage or newborn death. To moms reeling in deep grief, Dianna offers words and comfort and, in doing so, creates a circle of tear-stained realness, fortitude and big love. Brava! This book poignantly and beautifully sings the heart's song of infant loss.”- Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D., author of ‘Making Peace with Suicide’ and ‘Balancing Act’
“Dianna is an amazing woman and a brilliant writer. This book is useful to anyone who has experienced an infant loss or anyone who supports families experiencing infant loss. The work that she is doing in sharing her story is so important to help give perspective and help move through the natural process of death.”-Mr. Books, Amazon Reviewer
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