On Sunday, March 16th I saw a dead magpie in a lane very near our home. I instantly felt a rash of emotions – surprise, fear, sadness and then a deep, tearful sorrow. Magpies are monogamous. And this bird was mature, so it very likely left behind its mate.
I thought of the magpie’s surviving mate and asked God and the Universe to bring peace to him/her. I started to weep, thinking about the animal’s untimely death and the death of yet another opportunity in our life, in my womb, very recently. I asked of the spirit world to give solace both to the dead magpie and those it loved and left behind (for I understand that as irritating and selfish and arrogant as humans may find magpies to be, they are very devoted to their “families”).
I was more emotional than I would expect myself to be about seeing this dead magpie. I did some research and discovered a rhyme about magpie sightings that has had many iterations over the years. It begins with “One for sorrow, two for mirth [or joy in some versions]…” and carries on from there. In my case, one truly was for sorrow. A deep, heart-wrenching sorrow that has been wracking my body over the past few days. Seeing the magpie provided yet another reminder as well as an outlet for some of this unending grief I’ve been struggling with for the past 13 months without any real break (we were pregnant with what became our third loss, the first after our Miracle Baby was born, about this time last year).
In some folklore, seeing a magpie – especially a single one, let alone a dead one – is believed to be a bad omen. In other folklore, it is believed to be a good omen. I guess the trick is to see what feels “right” in your situation. It felt like a message to me – and not necessarily a ‘good’ one, but not a ‘bad’ one, either. It brought forth the grief and sadness I’ve already been feeling, in a more vivid kind of way. And made me wonder if we are on the right path, continuing to try to have another child despite the incredible odds against our succeeding.
I learned that Magpie tells us it is okay to have irrational fears and can help us face them with gentleness and compassion. I could use some help in that department, I suppose.
Some say Magpie teaches us to take joy in the process of change. I’d say that I’m not ready for that just yet. Unless by “change” we mean I’m suddenly diagnosed with a healthy, viable pregnancy.
Finally, Magpie can open doorways to the spirit world, sometimes representing spirit-attraction or an opportunity to invite interaction with members of the spirit world in the here-and-now. Having communicated (I think) with the spirit of a baby I believed we were meant to raise (in this lifetime) many times in the past, a part of me is afraid to invite members of the spirit world into my here-and-now for fear of finding out that this is no longer the case. Perhaps an irrational fear? Maybe not, considering the circumstances.
Why did I see the magpie and why did seeing it move me so? Was this our spirit baby acknowledging the loss of yet another opportunity to join us in the physical world? Was it telling me to stay the course or that my irrational fears about my womb being inhospitable, even to donor eggs (for this is my current anxiety) can be overcome gently, with compassion?
Or are my spirit guides telling me to give up, only death (of more babies) awaits us? Or perhaps Magpie appeared to remind me that life is precious and short? After all, death awaits us all and sometimes comes for us far earlier than we would like. I do not know.
Thinking about the magpie led me to recall an exercise in which I took part in my early 30s. A group of people, including me, participated in a storytelling roleplay. The purpose of the exercise was revealed to us at the end. It was to identify what animal best represented your alter ego, the “you” that comes out when your back is against the wall. This is the animal you become when you feel vulnerable and cornered, in an argument with a loved one, for example, or when faced with a challenging or overwhelming situation in life. The idea was that identifying who you might become (metaphorically or allegorically speaking) could help you work with yourself and others to play more fairly (and to avoid being cornered if you didn’t want to become the animal you identified your alter ego to represent).
My alter ego was a wolverine. For anyone who doesn’t know what a wolverine (beyond the comic book and now movie character) is, think tasmanian devil on amphetamines and suffering from really bad PMS. I believe google told me at one point that “The wolverine makes the tasmanian devil look like a sissy.” Wolverine never surrenders. She is one of the most, if not the most, ferocious and seemingly fearless mammals (the largest member of the weasel family). Even bears will turn away in most cases before taking on a wolverine. To outside observers, Wolverine is a fearless, resolute and unstoppable glutton.
Not completely admirable traits in interpersonal communications, by most people’s standards (including my own). I have worked to tame my inner Wolverine when in conflict with others and when faced with everyday adversity in life. I save some professional wolverine for my job, but she’s a very polished creature compared to the one I saw in that role play a decade ago. Still, I have much to learn. However, for the past several years I have avoided becoming a wolverine in arguments with the LP, for the most part. For this, I am grateful.
But the magpie sighting and my deep sadness of the past few days has left me wondering whether my wolverine self has a role to play in our journey to have another child. Since I first identified her as my animal alter ego, I have become a much more peaceful person. I have become a mother to one living child and to seven who joined us briefly but did not survive. I have fought like a wolverine to have another child or children over the past 13 months. And I have lost, time and time again.
To date, our adventures in ART (assisted reproductive technology – IVF and IUI, both with injectable drugs) have resulted in two chemical pregnancies and a great deal of debt. I’m done with that unless we’re going to buy some frozen donor eggs, which we cannot afford to do right now. I need to pay down some of the other ART-related debt first. Frankly, we had better luck (if miscarriages that happen later than a chemical pregnancy qualify as any kind of fortuity) or at least longevity conceiving on our own. By which I mean while using acupuncture, TCM, EFT, hypnotherapy, a gazillion supplements, scads of meditations, charting, charting and more charting and some good old-fashioned hanky panky.
Maybe Wolverine’s tenacity is not what is called for here? Perhaps I need to stop fighting for the life of our missing spirit baby/ies? Maybe this journey is over, the dream has died like that poor lone magpie? Maybe this is the change I need to welcome into my life, perhaps that is Magpie’s message?
Or perhaps I need to draw upon Wolverine’s gluttonous appetite for success and her steadfast refusal to surrender and accept defeat? If that’s the case, I don’t know what more to do than everything I’ve been doing.
That’s not entirely true. I took inventory and thought I could (a) take baby aspirin; and (b) re-introduce yoga. I don’t love yoga as some folks do, but I did an hour of it on Sunday morning and I’ll try to stick with it, if not daily then every other day. I don’t know that it will make any difference but I find it good to do something less cerebral in my time-to-myself than overthinking everything about this obsessive quest to conceive and carry a healthy child. Maybe I’ll look for some parent-and-tot yoga routines so I could enlist the enthusiasm of our Miracle Baby in the process. Can’t hurt, right?
In the meantime, I’ll be thinking about Magpie and Wolverine and what their appearance in my life right now, together with the vision of my mother a week earlier, have come to teach me.