Many women are connected with one another by the betrayal of their own bodies. It’s a story that is far too common, but does not take away the pain of each individual story. Brittany’s story has been shared by The March of Dimes, but her story didn’t really end there, and to be honest, when does it ever?
When discussing the loss of baby, a miscarriage, a pregnancy that didn’t go as smooth as expected, or trauma from these experiences, the world doesn’t know what to say. People slip up and say “well at least you’re okay now,” or “everything happens for a reason,” when in fact it doesn’t, sometimes, things just happen and there is no reason at all; no bigger picture, just sadness. I’ve listened to and learned a lot from women who went through some of these sad circumstances, and the best thing to do in these times is offer support, reach out when you think they need space, and understand you can’t fathom what they are feeling because everyone is different.
Brittany’s first baby, Mason, was quite the traumatic experience for her. He came very early, and through this process it meant not being able to bring him home when she planned on it. This process isn’t only aggravating and traumatic because of the separation and uncertainty that everything will be okay, but also because of the experiences you never thought you would have to live through. There is a lack of awareness of the anger one may have with their own body, as well as many other feelings about the time, finances, emotional and physical weight this process brings.
Between Mason and her recent [early] delivery, Brooks, there were two others that she never got to meet. When people hear about miscarriages, early or late stages, they solely believe the grieving is about the loss itself, and for some that is the majority of the pain, but it’s also about the experiences that life would have provided that were taken away. Nurses, doctors, families, and friends sometimes also say the very wrong things during these circumstances – making these instances even more frustrating.
“I think so often people think grief comes and goes away for good. Mason was born 7.5 years ago and the PTSD or trigger… or just a memory can hit me so hard out of the blue. When your whole world is so fragile and in a “plastic box”, those thoughts and feelings become embedded. It’s why I still check to see if Mason is breathing at night. We have to allow people to have the space to grieve, and know that it ebbs and flows. And we can’t stop being there for the ones we love. When we grieve we need love. Just love. It may shock some people, but we don’t always want advice or ‘comforting words’. Just love. I’m already confined to a body that betrayed me, I don’t need anyone commenting on any of it. I don’t need anyone telling me my boys are healthy today- I know that.”
My aim for this shoot was to get two different discussions. The first is the family that exists. The box that was conquered and broken for these four individuals to pursue. The strength of the family. The support of each other – with the acknowledgement of the pain along the way. I photographed Brittany’s maternity photographs with Brooks, and she told me it was one of the happiest days of her life. They were ABLE to photograph that stage, unlike before, and although Brooks came very early as well, the documentation was there.
Talking to Brittany in depth about bodies, expanding safety and inclusion to women of color within the pregnancy ward, the betrayal and grief of our own bodies, the expectation of women after pregnancy, and just home life of being a woman after, is a conversation that will stay with me for some time. I am not a mother of a human child, and I have not experienced grief in the way she has, but most of these discussions definitely do hit home for me and are so meaningful.
The second part of the shoot was a bit more artistic. We talked in the dark with a flashlight lighting a select spot in the room. We chatted about the dark times and the moments that we focus on to give us light. We talked about the struggles of relationships during these moments and the aloneness we feel because people are often too scared to check in on us in fear they are not giving us space to grieve. We both got pretty emotional in these discussions.
Brittany’s recent delivery hasn’t been something she has completely opened up to everyone about. Truthfully, she doesn’t owe anyone words of wisdom or discussion on parts of her life that she is still processing. But I am extremely honored she allowed me to hear her story, talk to her about her current mental state, and hang out for 2 hours to understand her heart and struggles. The fog grief provides, the dimming of the light it has the power to do, the ability to create haze in times we seek clarity is an element of these times I wanted to really visualize. Not only does loss feel painful in itself, but add hormones, relationships, physical body healing and working on past grief is a thick fog that does not go away just because things are ‘going smoothly,’ in the present time. Past wounds do not go away, PTSD is something that exists in many people due to traumatic experiences which make us hate certain smells, sounds, locations, and textures. Thank you Brittany for discussing these unclear and hazey parts of your life with me. The love you have gained from Mitchell, Mason and Brooks is priceless, and I’m so happy you have them as your light to guide you when things become unclear.
It’s when we can allow discomfort and the uncomfortable that we can love someone where they are. Trust me, if someone’s grief makes you uncomfortable, imagine how the griever feels.Brittany Hausmann