Milk tears.

by Claudia Ravaldi

What happens when a woman loses a baby in pregnancy or after birth? What happens to his body? What about her puerperium, the baby blues, the milk, the lootations, her sleep, her appetite, her hormones, her adaptation to a reality that is completely different from what it should have been, but remains embedded in inexorable body rhythms after childbirth?

I just lost my baby at 25 weeks … this morning I felt like my breasts were swollen and hard, so I took off my shirt, and there was a nice drop of milk … I cried all my tears

There is a furious modesty around the mother’s body after perinatal bereavement. This modesty does not help us. It does not help our psychophysical recovery, it does not help the recovery of an already obviously compromised health, given what has just happened. We must abandon the furious collective modesty, and have the courage to look with respect and love, the body of orphaned mothers, her trying to do what a mammalian mother’s body does when she has given birth to a child. Whether he is alive, or whether he is dead, the body cares little. Because it has been planned and prepared and ready for months to carry out its care functions. And he, undeterred, carries them out. Despite those discordant signals, which come from too empty arms, from too darkened minds, from petrified wombs. But he goes on. Because the body knows, it knows the times, and the ways, and the rhythms, even if we have forgotten. The body knows, and would like to tear that veil of modesty that surrounds it and receive a look, which contains the anguish of uselessness, the feeling of failure, the shame of having survived all this. It would take a look, it would take a space, it would take our interlocutors to stop having pain and fear together.

Mothers’ bodies shouldn’t be scary. Not even when they are empty shells. Rather, they should make tenderness, arouse compassion, and even admiration. For the tsunamis they manage to overcome, almost unscathed. It gets better if they get genuine support.

It is truly one of the most heartbreaking and difficult aspects to share. It changes you forever.

I have received dozens of testimonies from hundreds of mothers about the stories of their bodies after the loss.

Here is the first story I heard, many years ago.

In a corridor, between long shelves, in a bookshop in the city center, on a rainy afternoon in March.

A woman eagerly searches with her eyes and hands for a book that she cannot find: she must explain to her son, in words that she believes she has lost, an event that she cannot even tell herself. She searches for words, she looks for a cradle of words, for herself, for her children, to rest from the nightmare she has fallen into for a few days.

As he searches, the front door behind him creaks and opens.

A small group of people enters, footsteps are heard, voices are heard. They are hidden behind shelves of books. They are outside the bubble of pain, the woman thinks, continuing to search. Because without the right words, you know, the heart breaks, into smaller and smaller pieces.

There are tons of instructional books for all things in life on the psychology, pedagogy and pregnancy shelf of the city center bookstore.

There are no books on how to explain the death of an expected brother to a two and a half year old. There are no scientific books, there are no popular books, there are no fairy tales, there are no novels, there are no fairy tales, there are no hardback books, there are no comics.

Children in Italy do not lose siblings. The unborn in Italy never die.

The woman has a cut of painful contempt on her forehead. She feels abandoned, even by books, to a destiny that she believes she cannot handle, without the instructions of those who have already lived this destiny and today can see it from a right distance.

While he reflects almost cursing at this violent loneliness, a little cry rises from behind his shoulders.

He would recognize that little cry in the midst of the choirs of a stadium.

There is a baby nearby. A live baby, who, soon, will claim his milk.

The newborn continues to call his mother, who has gone upstairs with her older sister.

How long does it take to go down a flight of stairs to a mother who is called by her son?

The exact same time it takes for a mourning mother to have a milky fit, to feel her shirt get wet and to escape from the bookcase without looking back.

Leaving behind, a trail of milk tears.

You may also like

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.