A few weeks ago, I wrote a 5-minute speech proposal for Ignite Seattle. Now in its 10th year, Ignite is a community gathering of extra-ordinary people presenting interesting ideas and passionate stories to a live audience at Town Hall. The evening’s format is simple and precise — 16 5-minute speeches supported by 20 slides, each lasting 15 seconds.
Since moving to Seattle 4 years ago, I’ve attended several Ignite events. Each time I walk away feeling inspired to live a smarter, more creative life.
After Ignite in November, I resigned to submit my own proposal about the first year of my life following the birth and death of my daughter, Poppy. The subject is sensitive; however, it’s a topic that needs more attention. Thankfully, I can now talk openly about Poppy without immediately succumbing to the emotional pain of her death.
Death and grief are not foreign subjects for the Ignite stage. I watched Dani Buckley give her talk “The Taboo of Death Talk” in February 2016, a few months after Poppy died. Dani shared lessons learned after her father’s death and the importance of having uncomfortable conversations. Her speech acknowledged grief as “a life-long club that none of us want to be a part of” and emphasized that “while [grief is] very universal it is also incredibly personal and unique.” I did my best to quiet my sobs while she spoke. I was raw and her talk touched me deeply. At the time I was incapable of talking or thinking about Poppy without falling apart. Dani inspired me to remember, to write and to keep having uncomfortable conversations.
This past November I watched Kelly Kanary share “The Irish Goodbye,” a touching story about her mother’s death. After watching her mother take her last breath, Kelly described an “incredible feeling that the Universe had cracked open and [her] beautiful mother went into that space.” I closed my eyes and remembered resting in the hospital bed a few hours after learning that Poppy had no heartbeat. Calmed by the narcotic medication I’d requested, I envisioned Poppy’s soul happily soaring by Andromeda Galaxy. I still find comfort in that vision, drug-induced or not. With time and through meditation, I’ve come to believe her spirit accomplished its mission in my womb, and wasted no time in the after-life awakening to the great Unknown.
If you have the time, I encourage you to watch Dani and Kelly’s Ignite talks — just hover over the talk titles above and click on the Youtube hyperlink. I’ll find out later this month if Ignite accepts my proposal, but in an act of courage and hope, I’m sharing it here.
This is the proposal:
My story is tragic, beautiful, and inspiring. On October 26, 2015, my husband Eli drove us to Swedish Hospital in the wee hours of the morning where I would give birth to our daughter. I was in labor and our baby was ready to be born.
When we got to the hospital we learned that our baby no longer had a heartbeat. She would be stillborn at full-term. I gave birth to Poppy Annabelle later that afternoon. She was 7lbs, 11.8 ounces. 20 inches long. She was beautiful. And gone.
My Ignite talk will explore the year after Poppy died and the ways in which grief has transformed me into a more compassionate, forgiving, honest person. I will share with the audience how I survived the greatest tragedy of my life and the things I’ve done to heal from our loss. Poppy’s spirit is alive in me and she has many gifts to share from beyond. My life’s mission is to explore those gifts and reveal those truths to myself and to others.
As part of my healing journey, these are some of the things I did in the months after her death:
· Donated my breastmilk to the NW Mother’s Milk Bank
· Took a road trip traveling 2100 miles through 7 states with my husband a mere 3 weeks after Poppy’s death
· Scattered some of Poppy’s ashes at the Grand Canyon
· Deepened my yoga and meditation practice
· Took an online memoir writing class (I’m writing a memoir currently)
· Started a blog on Medium to explore my grief with a wider audience
· Started attending a support group at Seattle Children’s Hospital
· Went to a week-long healing retreat for grieving mother’s in Canada
· Quit my job
· Adopted a puppy
· Started couple’s counseling so my husband and I could learn how to grieve together
· Wrote a monolog about Poppy’s birth story that was performed live onstage in Portland, Oregon
· Connected with artist Angela Craven in Denver, CO, and her “Art Through Fertility” Project (She is creating a painting based on our conversations about my grief).
· Read lots of books (e.g., Many Lives, Many Masters; Rising Strong; Transitions) and poetry (e.g., Rilke; Rumi)
· Walked in the woods at Seward Park…a lot.
· Used art to express my grief — mosaic, chalk drawings, painting
· Rode in the Solstice Day Naked Bicycle Parade and painted Poppies on our bodies
· Planned a beautiful Memorial Celebration on Poppy’s 1st birthday (October 26, 2016) and had our home full of our friends to celebrate her memory
· Planted a blueberry bush with her ashes on her birthday.
· (HOPEFULLY!) Gave a Talk at Ignite Seattle to remember her and to raise awareness about stillbirth (pregnancy loss) and the grief process that follows such a horrific loss.
My talk will also touch on the reality of pregnancy loss (stillbirth/miscarriage) and how it deeply impacts families despite 21st century medicine. I will define and highlight the differences between stillbirth and miscarriage as well as briefly discuss the statistics regarding both. The numbers are shocking.
Lastly, I will share some of my wisdom regarding ways the audience can support family and friends when a tragedy like mine strikes someone they know and love. I looked deep within my soul to survive this trauma but I could not have done it without the love and support I received from my community.
My fingers are crossed. I’ll let you know.
Follow up note: My proposal wasn’t selected for the Ignite Talks in February. For the first few minutes after receiving the “rejection” email, I was truly disappointed. Then I simply shifted my focus and remembered with joy how much energy and insight I received from simply writing the proposal. I have no regrets and hope to try again someday.
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