Writing like WaterBy Dianna Vagianos Armentrout
Some people are sturdy as mountains. Others are like rivers, moving around and beneath and through vegetation and stones. Roots and shadows. My memoir, Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Newborn Death is fluid in its genre because I am not a mountain. I like to wander and wade and dive deeply into places and moments. When I found out that my unborn baby would die, I floated into my daughter’s life and death not knowing what the future held. Somehow I survived the unthinkable.
These days we see the blending of genres more and more. Novels can be inspired by real experiences, and memoir is never exactly true. The memory of our experiences changes as we change. We tell stories, but they sometimes contain the fictions of our point of view. The moment in time that we are attempting to capture is gone, and all we can do is remember.
When I put together my book, I wanted to include journal entries that I wrote when I was pregnant and found out that my baby would die. The journal entries are rough. They are not the refined writing of a graduate writer’s workshop, but I wanted to show that jagged, dark space to other families going through pregnancies with life-limiting and sometimes fatal diagnoses.
I started a blog. I wrote essays on birthing at home with a fatal diagnosis. I wrote about trisomy 18 and bereavement doulas. I wrote about grief. The longing for that which we cannot hold. These blog posts became another section of my book.
Poems poured out of me with Mary Rose’s milk. I was angry. I was shocked. I wanted my baby, and I wrote. Poetry is my first genre, so we have a section of poems too.
I studied poetry therapy for many years, and I wrote about the healing experience of writing through grief. Writing really can help us process the hardest moments of grief.
Why does my book contain so many different genres? I could not write a book about my pregnancy with my daughter, Mary Rose, in a linear narrative. My pregnancy and my grief afterwards waxed and waned with every step I took. My book is a manifestation of my own journey. I need more than one genre to express the different manifestations of grief and of creating my new life after the birth and death of my daughter.
Grief is also like water, though it can be stormy like the ocean. After Mary Rose died, I was not prepared for postpartum life without my baby. Many times I thought I was okay, and then I burst into tears. Again.
The book has many short chapters, short poems and excerpts. In the aftermath and shock of a difficult diagnosis during pregnancy, the brevity might be easier for a weeping mother. I also included some chapters on how to navigate through such a diagnosis. Do you send out birth announcements when your newborn dies? Do you plan a funeral? If the baby lives, do you want life support? How do we deal with social media posts about healthy pregnancies and babies when our hearts are broken? Where do we find support?
I offer my book to my readers, hoping that each reader finds something that resonates with her. Grief is lonely, but many of us are grieving. I wanted to give voice to the mourning mother who miscarried or lost a baby. I hope that we may comfort each other with our stories, as water comforts us in its many manifestations. River, ocean or lake; stormy or calm. Our babies were carried in water, and we are water too.
Where to find the book:
And where to find the author: