I stand in the Bikram studio day after day as the sweat heals me like holy water from some far away spiritual cove.
Unlimited and free flowing, it dances with my breath. I see their little faces move past me like an old film. They only appear here, in my reflection.
I open the studio door and race to the mirror as if reuniting with a long lost love at Heathrow. Their arms wrapped around me, our cheeks pressed together, mingling our tears, we spend the next 90 minutes communing until they remind me once again to let go and forgive myself.
As the studio lights snap on, they disappear into the final breathing. I’ve been searching for them from the moment I lost them. It is only here in the belly of the hot and humid beast that they arise, unspoken anthems in a world of bone-crushing loss.
Loss drives us to many different paths in life, some healthy, some not so healthy, but all representing exactly where we need to be on our journey of grief and healing.
My path led me to a warm inviting lover, Bikram yoga. My story is for the lost ones and all the women who search for them.
They say the human heart beats 80 times per minute. On a snowy evening, February 22, 2004, at approximately 10:22pm, my ‘heartbeat of hope’ flat-lined. At 7:00pm, I sat at home in front of the television, prepared to watch the Sex and the City finale—just me and my little heartbeat—three hours later, I sat in the hospital in a sea of vibrant red. The contrasting white sheets never seemed so white to me.
Nothing I could do would stop the familiar feeling of loss.
Four months later, I was given a second chance. I remember distinctly smiling in my rear view mirror as I left for work. Today marked the end of the first trimester. This time I made it, this little one and me.
Or so I thought.
Not long after, I heard the words that extinguished my hope, “I’m sorry to inform you that your baby will not survive this pregnancy. You have a choice to continue with the pregnancy until it expires naturally or to terminate.”
I couldn’t bear to bond anymore with little heartbeats.
I was still raw from the first miscarriage and quite possibly embarking upon the darkest hours of my life. I was plagued with thoughts about how I should proceed, and I read countless articles written by self-proclaimed brave and selfless women who continued their pregnancies, naturally knowing they would never result in the fulfillment of the dream they had hoped for, a family.
I did not count myself among these women.
Instead, I prepared myself for the myriad of semi-authentic responses I would have to endure, all the while knowing that underneath the hugs and smiles would float the thought, “I could never do that.” It is easy to hold on tight to your beliefs of what you should do; it’s much more difficult when you’re actually living the experience.
Five months after the loss of my daughter, my heart began to beat again. After a whirlwind of lawyers, documents, papers and notaries, she arrived in the form of a photograph. She was pink and beautiful; we would name her in honor of her lost sister.
I stared at her photo hour after hour, day after day. She was the most amazing little being I had ever seen. I could hear a voice telling me, “This little one is going to save you, Guatemala has given you a tremendous gift.”
So wonderfully lost in the adoption of our new daughter, it took me a while to realize that I was pregnant. Again, more words.
“Congratulations, you have twin boys,” the ultrasound technician said as she skimmed the gadget across my wet, sticky stomach. Then, silence. “Let me get the doctor to take a look at this.” The doctor confirmed we had twins who were sharing the same amniotic sac, which would make this a high-risk pregnancy. He would call with the lab results. Again, unspeakable loss.
Soon after, I left for Guatemala. For her, for my pink, cherubic, beautiful daughter.
I felt as though I were seeing her through eyes that were not my own. Her being penetrated my soul as she settled there, finding her space among the dreams that had never come to life. All of these dreams remain nestled deep inside, forced out only when the heat arrives.
Luckily, in Bikram, sweat and tears are one in the same. It is my sanctuary of forgiveness, my platform for gentle reminders that I am a brave and selfless woman in my own right. If the pro-life society were to draw a line to separate good from bad, they would probably send me to the bad side of the room.
In Bikram, there is no line. With every position of the series, I stretch and breathe for the woman in me who endured those painful times. Mostly, I cry for all the other wonderful women who will experience that life-changing soul evacuation.
It forever changed me. I’m finally grieving for the children I never knew.
Bikram has taught me to smile for the woman in me who never ever stopped doing whatever it took to be a mother. The mirror gives me time with the lost ones, the sweat heals me and the heat provides the warmth I so desperately longed for through the coldest darkest hours of my path to motherhood.
Laurie McGrath is a technology marketing executive in the heartland of America. She’s been a seeker for as long as she can remember of all things good in life, an advocate for animal rights and a dreamer of doing Bikram 24/7.
Editor: Thaddeus Haas
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