Hope & Waiting: A First Term Pregnancy Loss Ritual, by Cara H. Cadwallader

(Trigger Warning: Pregnancy Loss images)

In the last few days of her life, she had become Esperanza.

Espe was a seven-week old embryo who had taken space in my womb and who, one day, would grow into the daughter I had spent the first half of 2016 dreaming about.

At first, though, her name had been Marlo.

Marlo Ophelia Moon.

a metaphoric acronym.

This girl, well, she was here to do BIG things. She was going to heal – not just mine but –
our whole planet’s Mother Wound!

Already a forty-year old mother to a toddler, I was emerging from the fog of his infancy. My hormones were wrecked, and unlike my first pregnancy, this time I was experiencing a ‘morning sickness’ that included dark nights of hot flashes followed by early wakings of cold shivers that blankets could not warm. My digestive tract was a mess; I was bloated and constipated, my intestines stuck.

Still, I rejoiced for this being whose coming I had deeply intuited.

She was known as Marlo only to my partner and a best friend located on the east coast. This time, I did not need a pee stick to confirm my pregnancy. Instead, I sought out the consultation of a local energy healer – someone who had connected with my son when he was at five months gestation. Back then, she had sensed both his presence and his distinct name, so I pursued her once more.

Finding her within the spiritual gift shop I worked at when I was first pregnant, I greeted her and asked to be embraced. As our two bodies pressed intimately together, I told her I was expecting. “A girl,” I asserted, and she reacted with a nose twitch and twinkling eyes. I inquired what names she felt arising. “Grace, Joy,” she replied with ease. Not resonating with those specific names, I responded with a noncommittal “Hmmm.” Her deep, blue eyes danced as she then exclaimed, “Actually, it’s Esperanza!?” A look of intuitive knowing crossed her face but, still, I left her company unsure of her suggestion.

This pregnancy depleted me, and I was struggling to care for myself and my family. What this often looks like is failing to nourish myself with water and greens. As a result, I lack nutrients and am regularly dehydrated. Simply taking a raw, pregnancy supplement was not giving me the support I needed.

At almost seven-weeks in, I started spotting brown blood clots. Worried about this development, I researched online and read that dark brown spotting could be a normal occurrence. I chose to trust the process.

The morning after I began spotting, I drove thirty miles south to tend to the postpartum care of a second time mother. Along the way, I literally passed the energy worker friend from before, as her car headed in the opposite direction. It was a moment of synchronicity that, for me, sealed our fate.

Standing at the kitchen counter in my client’s home, where I prepared nutritious postpartum foods — like Saffron Coconut Stew and Kitchari — I felt fear and dread circling my center. I also felt clear knowing that the absolute disconnect I was embodying then and there came with the high cost and consequence of the seven week old embryo I had been carrying. Oh, the bittersweet taste of irony!

Tenet #1 of Self Care: Put ourselves first!
Prioritize our own, and our family’s, care and well-being before anyone else’s.
There I was, providing nurturance for another that I hadn’t been able to give to myself.
Attempting to avoid the obvious, I dismissed my cramping as the gassy discomfort of a fearful nervous system. Alas, I was losing the soon-to-be fetus.

Where are you?

Why are you incapable of showing up for me? Of nurturing and nourishing me?
Why can’t you love me the way I deserve to be loved; the way all children deserve to be loved?”

Finally, I threw myself a lifesaver.
I asked for help.
hich is, Tenet #2 of Self Care.

Later that day, a sister brought to my home an allopathic medicine bag but, it was too late. Her pregnancy teas and massage could not abate my spotting and could not prevent the coming flood.

The next day, while our son napped soundly, Esperanza slipped from my womb, out between my legs, gliding to the bottom of the toilet bowl.
I plunged my hand in, and retrieved Her, a sack the size of a quarter. I ran downstairs to my partner, at work behind his computer.

Deep, guttural wailing engulfed my being. I dropped to my knees, holding our dead embryo in my palm, sobs rocked me back and forth. My man, holding me from behind, bore witness to it all – the snot hanging from my upper lip as my tear-stained face released the torrent of  thousands of years.

Where are you?
Why aren’t you here?


Why am I always left alone to fend for myself in this cold reality?

I had also spent that year of 2016 looking at, and turning over in my hands, my own personal mother wound. After painful clashes at the beginning of that year, I had consciously chosen not to engage with my birth mother. No calls, no visits. No manic behavior pulling me without reason, knocking me off of my center. No more drama from heavy voicemails dripping with blame and accusation, fear and anger. Instead, I gave myself the gift of peace.

Yet, as I unfurled that cord’s thick black knot from around my energy center, women – so-called “soul sisters,” driven by their own wounds rushed in to fill the fresh, gaping void. “You’re venomous,” one hissed, hiding behind a text message. Another, to this day, refuses to hear a specific voice of mine – the one that is fiery, and filled with passionate rage. She continues to center herself and her past trauma over me and my needs. In addition, I have not spoken to my actual blood sister in three years, as – due to her own wounds – she prefers to see me with only judgment.
Like our planetary mother wound, our collective sister wound is also real.

And, still,
the Earth quakes.
Swaths of ice melt under an Arctic sun.
Ancient forests slide down mountainsides.
Animals go extinct, people are trafficked for sex and money.
And Americans soldier on, marching into division and fear.

Three candidates had risen amongst a confused populace. One representing humanity’s worst, evil and sinister, he is concealed in Cheeto powder, another an embodiment of a wise patriarchal father, and the third a woman demanding that it was Her turn to be president.
So, she pushed the elder out of her gilded path’s way and made a beeline for that glass ceiling.

Only, that Queen Bee wasn’t strong enough to smash through it. Not because she wasn’t over qualified for the position, or because she didn’t know how to play the game, and even not because of rampant sexism and misogyny, but because there is a greater machination at play –  a sludgy greed that oozes like oil and prefers to keep the people asleep at the wheel.

So, here we are.

A dismal winter of 2017. Southern California is drenched in rain and buried in snow, leading some to erroneously believe that our decades-long drought is over. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has risen to office as Commander in Chief, sparking angry mobs and peaceful protests. Some quiver in their boots while others salute like Nazi Germans. All the while, us nasty women are pissed.

I feel so angry that I refused to march in the Great Women’s March.
(Even though I have spent the past twenty years marching.)

I am so angry about all of this all I can do is FOCUS on my life at hand, and the demonstrations of change that I can embody here, at home.

While holding the lifeless sack that we called “Espe” in my hands, and after our son had woken from his nap, we placed it on a leaf and covered it with feathers. “Wings to fly with,” I whispered to my partner. Solemnly, we plodded into the backyard where my partner dug a shallow grave and we, along with our two year old, said our final goodbyes.

A photographer, my partner remembered to grab his camera so that we could commemorate our experience. We then placed our sacred bundle in the hole, covered it with dirt and waited as the ants quickly found this final resting place. The next day, I placed a rock marker, vividly painted with Her name and brief flicker of life dates, on top.

I shared my journey, in photos and words, on my Facebook page. Our story brought healing to many who have experienced pregnancy loss but did not have rituals to aid in their healing process. Six months later, and around Christmas time, I printed my photos and made a collage that now hangs next to our son’s birth photo  in our bathroom. “Espe” will always be with us.


In Spanish, Esperanza means HOPE.

My Hope is that we women will collectively address our personal mother (and sister) wounds – those unconscious places inside of us where we are unable to identify and ask for our needs, boundaries and more.
My hope is that we will transform the darkness of jealousy and envy by honoring the gift that these curses can be
– a fuel to feed our own internal drives towards the paths of creation and productivity.

Yes, we can integrate our shadow into a dance with our whole selves. Thus, it is my hope now that we who are powerfully charging into the future do so not from the place where our unconscious leads us but rather from an acutely aware sense of irony and inner knowing.

We aren’t there yet but, someday, with the all of the work that it requires, with the asking for assistance and the willingness to be in our discomfort, we will get there. Because Esperanza also means WAITING.

We are still waiting for that female world leader who will steer us back towards a sustainable and just shared destiny of life here on planet Earth. And, me, I am patiently beginning the process of fostering a child to adoption. There is a little girl waiting for me in my field. I wait for Her to arrive.

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