Lost and Found

This post was written by former Friday blogger Stephany Aulenback, who subsequently founded Crooked House.

So about a month ago I had a miscarriage, my fourth in the last year. It has been a trying time, one in which I discovered I do not find the sentiments “everything happens for a reason” and “it was meant to be” particularly helpful or comforting. These phrases have been trotted out to me by a number of well-meaning people, and each time I hear some variation of them, I always fight the urge to reply with, “Oh really? Good then, so when I hit you over the head with this jar of mayonnaise and you end up in the hospital with a broken nose and a concussion, you can take comfort in the fact that ‘it was meant to be.’ Just remember: ‘everything happens for a reason.'”

My mother laughed until she choked when I told her this and then she said, “You know, though, that those people are only trying to be kind.” Of course she’s right. And for some people, those ideas probably are comforting. So I always try to think of the intention behind those particular words instead of the words themselves.

Lately, though, my friends have started to give me little fertility talismans. Now some grief-stricken, more scientifically-minded person might not find this particularly comforting or helpful. But I absolutely love it. I love not only the intention behind these gifts but also the the idea of the things and the things themselves.

A few days ago my friend Sev showed up at my back door with a tiny red bag made of some sheer gauzy fabric. It contained three glossy stones — one large green one with a little hunch-backed creature with spiky hair carrying a stick carved on its surface, a smaller white oval stone, and a tiny shiny black one. Sev told me the little creature is the Inuit god of fertility. The tiny shiny black stone is for clarity and the white one is for cleansing. “The woman told me the white one can pick up other people’s shit, though,” warned Sev. “You have to put it in the moonlight to cleanse it.” I told her that picking up other people’s shit is good practise for parenting.

The very next day, I got a package in the mail containing, among other items, a tiny plastic rhino. At first I didn’t think much about it but then I remembered that the sender of the package, Elizabeth Ellen, had emailed me a couple of weeks earlier to say:

I thought of you while watching a nature special about a rhino (hope this comes out the right way…) when we were in Florida. The rhino was in a zoo and she kept miscarrying. The zoo keepers would be so excited she got pregnant so easily, and then so disheartened when she miscarried. Finally they tried giving her extra doses of progesterone, thinking maybe her body wasn’t producing enough. Amazingly, it must have worked. After five miscarriages, she finally gave birth to a healthy baby. The first captive born rhino in over 112 years! I hope your doctors find a similar solution for you, lady.

Strangely, around the same time Sev and Elizabeth gave me the stones and the little rhino, I also received a couple of books I’d ordered from Amazon, on the subject of Chinese adoptions. In fact, The Lost Daughters of China showed up on my doorstep* about five minutes before Sev did with her little red bag. So who knows in what mysterious way my fertility talismans might work? (See how, even though I’ve stated I’m not a card-carrying member of the “everything happens for a reason” club, I’m perfectly happy to engage in my own personal brand of magical thinking? I guess I’m the kind of person who, while eschewing traditional organized religion, could very easily be convinced to join a cult. Or better yet, to start one.)

All of this is to say that I’d appreciate any suggestions for books about adoption, especially ones about international adoptions, and Chinese adoptions in particular. I’ve got the aforementioned Lost Daughters (which I intend to quote from in a minute) and also Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son. Kids Like Me in China is on its way. If you know of a good one, please email me at stephka at maudnewton dot com.

I also wanted to give a shout-out to two truly stellar blogs that have made me laugh — and made me feel less lonely — during this time. Chez Miscarriage is written by a woman who also has “fertility issues.” She is thoughtful, hilarious, brave, angry, and wonderful and boy, can she ever write. Somebody should give her a book contract immediately. I don’t know if Mimi Smartypants has ever had a fertility problem but I do know she has a lovely little daughter who was born in China. She’s thoughtful, hilarious, brave, angry, and wonderful, too, and a terrific writer, to boot. And she is one of those rare bloggers who already has a book contract. In fact, she already has a book.

*I couldn’t resist that. I wish the Lost Daughters of China really would just show up on my doorstep. Although, apparently, there are about a million of them.


You might want to subscribe to my free Substack newsletter, Ancestor Trouble, if the name makes intuitive sense to you.