Infertility Series: Baby J
Back in May, I launched an Infertility Series. When I began thinking about the idea, I had a small inkling that this would be meaningful to the handful of friends I knew who had gone through the struggle to conceive. Never in my wildest imagination would I have been able to predict the response I received. From the outside looking in, you may not have seen the series as a success because the public response was very minimal. Privately however, blog traffic skyrocketed, my inbox was filled with messages from all over, and I was contacted privately by friends who I never knew had struggled. I was so glad I took a leap of faith and did it - knowing it touched so many.
On that note, did you know that October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month? To give you a little background, on October 25, 1988, President Ronald Reagan designated the entire month of October as Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The October 15th Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day Campaign began in 2002 as an American movement started by Robyn Bear, Lisa Brown, and Tammy Novak. Together, they petitioned the federal government, as well as the governors of each of the 50 states, in conjunction with the first observation of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day on October 15, 2002.
In honor of this month, my dear friend Miriam Jameson, who is a very talented musician and yogi, is releasing a song titled, “Baby J." This song was written in honor of the child she miscarried. She says that almost two years after the loss of her child, she was at the piano and saw her baby in her mind and it broke her and the realization that she would never meet her little angel became the dominant force in her fingers.
She decided to share this extremely personal song with the world because she believes that whether you have 5 children, no children, don’t want children, have left it for the future to decide— you may have experienced loss. And that loss cuts to the center of who we are as women. We are multi-faceted beings, and the duality our society has created attempts to pull us apart. Instead, uniting as women to help one another — whatever that “help” translates to — THAT changes the landscape and the conversation.
I asked Miriam to share a little bit about her creative process and how this experience has led to creating this song.
Q: Can you share a little bit about your musical background?
I grew up in a very musical family. Both of my parents are musicians and teachers - something that I’ve discovered comes very naturally to me. I started piano when I was 5 and was fortunate enough to play 4 instruments throughout my formative years - this really gave me a feel of playing in large and small ensembles, solo performance, and different genres of music as well. I graduated from UNO with my bachelors and masters degrees - both in piano performance. The exploration I was able to have, especially in my masters, spoke very much to the expertise of my instructor (Dr. Johnson), and the eventual freedom I would link to in the music I create now.
Q: What inspires you most in your compositions?
I would summarize my music in three words: authenticity, emotion, & life. Despite being raised in a very traditional music world, my creative process is anything but. When I feel things that happen - the emotion, authenticity of the moment, and that life impact - I sit down, hit the “record” button, and turn my feelings into sound. In fact, I was joking with Jordan, when I was invited to perform Baby J at First Candle’s Charity Gala in NYC - because the recordings are in the moment and authentic and emotional, I’m going to have to actually go back and “learn” my own song - (hah). It’s an interesting and beautiful musical journey for sure.
Jordan and I met at a July 4th party in 2011 - I was invited by someone in his Marine Corps unit, and was told there was going to be a big 4th of July party. Well - there were 4 people there; counting Jordan and myself. Needless to say, it was a hilarious situation, but one that I was not expecting at all. I was actually planning on going to France to take lessons at the Conservatoire and didn’t want to meet anyone to be attached to; clearly God had a different plan.
Q: How did you feel when you discovered you were pregnant?
Well - excited is not the word I would use to describe how I felt when I found out “officially” that I was pregnant. In fact, you could say I was a mixture of scared and devastated. I was still recovering physically from becoming incredibly ill from an IUD (I was actually in Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy at the time), and had even been told that it was good that we had wanted to wait for kids because of the trauma to the entire region of my body. I was planning on spending the next summer in France as well and set to release my first album (Miriam’s Heartbeat). This was a critical turning point for me and Jordan was incredibly supportive. He told me that it was my body, and that he supported any decision I would make. After sitting with it for a few days, I was able to hone in on the best choice for me - and that was to accept the life with joy. We did always want children, and perhaps the timing was part of a bigger picture. And so I canceled the trip to France and we spent the next few weeks beginning to really adjust our life plan. There was excitement and so much happiness in this process. We had chosen names and were ready to embrace this beautiful life.
Q: How was your husband able to support you despite his own grief?
Jordan was there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on. Many times, however, because of military life, schedules, and the guilt I was feeling - I didn’t even know how to talk about my feelings.
For Christmas that year, Jordan did something that I will never forget and that changed the landscape for me. He wrote me a letter - in the voice of Baby J. It was JUST the thing that I needed to be able to connect deeply with my emotions. I was able to, for the first time, let out so much of the pain I was feeling through tears.
Q: What support did you receive when you lost the baby? What support did you need that you didn't receive?
We found out the horrible news a day before a photo shoot I was set for--- in support of Miriam’sHeartbeat. My doctor said that the levels had dropped, and there was no way that life could “truly” form and develop (we were about at week 7).
I don’t remember the way the office looked--- what I was wearing--- or even the details of that moment. What I will never forget, however, was how I felt. My heart sank. I was holding back tears. I wanted to scream. “This happens to 1 in 4 pregnancies--- it is very common—and we are so sorry.” --- I felt like a statistic (not to mention that as of April of 2016, the statistics have changed to 1 in 3). I felt that since it was common, I didn’t have the right to cry, and the whirlwind of emotions were something that will remain etched in my mind and body forever. I chose not to have a D&C because of the way my body reacted so negatively to the IUD, as well as the trauma that I had experienced as a result. I suppose there was also a small part of me that was hoping that the doctor would be wrong--- if it was supposed to happen, it would happen and I didn’t want to interfere.
We left the office and prepared for our trip. Days later, my body began the painful process (between week 7 & 8) of miscarrying our baby. To say that a miscarriage is painful does not do it justice. The images from Miriam’s Heartbeat were actually shot while my body was in this process--- I knew that I could not get through the photo shoot alone and so I gave it to God. I believe you can see that surrender in each and every one of the images and that is a beautiful thing to remember amidst such a painful time.
Throughout the entire process, I did not feel that I had the right to grieve or complain. I felt guilty because so many women had wanted children and were trying and since I wasn’t excited or trying initially, my loss was not legitimate. I could not grieve because my baby had not been born. In fact, my baby was not even a big enough blip on the ultrasound screen to “matter.” (We still have multiple ultrasound photos of Baby J that will remain forever in our hearts.) These are all emotions I kept to myself. I did not know who to talk to, who to trust, or where to go to find support. I did not believe that I deserved support (nor did I know it existed to begin with) - because of the guilt; because of the situation; because of the lack of conversation in our nation for women about these incredibly painful issues.
I wish I had known about First Candle - I believe that it would have changed the landscape of my healing process…to have an online support group or the free grief counseling. And though I wouldn’t change a thing about how a beautiful piece of music and impact came from this loss, I do know that perhaps it wouldn’t have taken a year and a half to even sit at the piano to connect with the pain I had felt for so long. And that is what I believe First Candle does - they provide women an opportunity to find a way to grieve and to turn pain into hope. That is the message of Baby J - this song is birthed in turning pain and grief into hope and impact; to open conversation and to change the landscape of healing for those around us.
Q: What advice would you offer those experiencing infertility issues?
Though loss is loss, each and every one is different. I have connected with women who have lost a child to SIDS, have miscarried, and been unable to conceive. Amidst this spectrum of difficulty and pain, one thing that has remained constant always comes to my mind and that is this: finding a way to turn pain into hope - to heal - through art, through music, through service to others. THAT makes the difference; to be able to sit with the pain - to feel it deep in your body, and then to allow the tears to come. And then to turn that emotion into something beautiful - it aids the healing process and can change your life (in the best way) forever.
Q: What advice would you give those who are looking to offer support to loved ones experiencing loss?
First Candle offers some great information on things to say/not to say/etc. They can all be found HERE on their website. I would also encourage them to share Baby J - the song is birthed in pain and yet illuminates hope in each and every note. Whether we realize it or not, we all know someone that has experienced this painful process.
Side note: This was a very difficult thing for us - what I will say is this: conversation empowers people to grieve & changes the landscape of how they are able to do it. This conversation is missing from our nation’s script when it comes to pregnancy and infant loss, and is one of the many reasons I am so passionate about sharing Baby J with as many people as possible.
"Baby J” will be available on iTunes starting October 1st and on every other digital platform starting on October 15th. During the month of October, 50% of profits from Baby J will go directly to First Candle to aid their support of grieving families across the United States. Also, Miriam will be performing live at The Pierre in NYC for First Candle’s Charity Gala on Thursday, November 3, 2016.
I would like to thank Miriam for her being so candid with her story. It takes great courage to let others in to see the innermost struggles and to tell such a personal story.