The journey to motherhood is fraught with highs and lows. And sometimes, there are great losses that leave you feeling hopeless. I know this all too well. Yet still, I remain hopeful that there can be hope amidst the darkness.
I like to think of the myth of Pandora’s Box. For centuries, the Greek tale has been a popular concept to help digest the often-cruel existence of life. The general gist is that a woman opened a box, or jar, and released all the negative realities of life. But she closed the lid before releasing hope. Hope: the idea that beyond all the struggles, there is this rescue, an anchor to hold on to. Hope: the concept that there is a saving grace that might inspire acceptance. Hope: the suggestion that there is a gift that might encourage momentum, a push to survive. When life is hard, at the bottom of the box, there is hope.
My journey to becoming a mother has forced me to examine hope more times than I can count. Like many women, motherhood was something I fought for. I had rounds of fertility treatments, moments of despair and every day I would put on an armor to go into a seemingly unfair battle. This battle went against what I felt was my natural right as a woman. This was a battle fought in the most sterile, un-nurturing environment filled with harsh dualities that still haunt me to this day. There was gratitude but deep anger. There was strength but an intense undercurrent of fear. There was support and yet an overwhelming sense of isolation. I armed myself with prayer, meditation, healthy habits, taking deep breaths, and above all else, hope.
On Thanksgiving Day 2016, at 37 ½ weeks, our twin daughters were born. Our beautiful, perfect, hoped for dreams made us parents that day. That is one truth. The other; one of them, Autumn Elise, passed a few hours prior in utero, which led to an emergency c-section. In the minutes of sheer terror and what felt like chaos, the medical team put on their armor to save our other daughter. In the operating room, as I started to feel myself drifting off from the anesthesia, I prayed for my last hope: that I wouldn’t wake up. That is one truth. The other: I did wake up and our saving grace, our anchor, what become my new hope, her twin sister, made it safe.
The mythical story of Pandora’s box that contained all the war, famine, greed, anger, and pain is a story of the bad but also the good; at least when you take the story at a distance. There is this duality of life and death. Our loss let in some of the darkest, saddest, and angriest moments of my life (it still does). Yet there has been a constant light of hope. I am slightly accustomed to the randomness of it all. There are ups and downs. There are joyful heart aching moments that unexpectedly overwhelm me. And then there are moments that take my breath away, robbing me of all sense of security. I can’t deny my strength. But I equally can’t deny my weakness when it comes to the pain I feel with our loss.
This is all too often a “silent” loss. Yet, we all know of someone who has experienced it. Sometimes, we find out it’s our own mothers or grandmothers who have held this loss close to their hearts and didn’t feel that there was space to share. Today, there is more recognition and resources for maternal mental health and support. If you are someone reading this and feeling hopeless, seek the support you deserve.
Truthfully, I have found more solace in the idea of the underlying hope on this journey. I write this almost seven years later, knowing that this crusade of motherhood after loss was not how I envisioned my story. But I have found more peace with it. Today, our daughters bless me every day with their smiles, and I know Autumn’s spirit is weaved into every moment, good or bad. I share my story with the intention of lighting the path for others who might need a small reminder that you are not alone. There is support out there. I share my story for anyone who feels that their loss has robbed them of their hopes. I encourage you to charge on.
Maybe, you have to redefine hope. Maybe I have to redefine hope. Or maybe, hope simply redefines you.
About the Author
Maria Klaffky, to her girls, is a “great dancer,” professional face painter and can talk to animals and know their thoughts. She loves dogs and squirrels and is proud that her daughters request ABBA more times than not to be played on Alexa. Maria grew up in New Orleans and met her husband, Stephen, while studying in Washington DC. After living in New England for ten years, they replaced seasonal weather for seasonal costumes and moved back to New Orleans in 2014! Maria taught yoga for several years, then received her master’s in counseling in 2022. She currently works in New Orleans and specializes in Maternal Mental Health. Maria, Stephen, and their daughters’ Ava (6) and Meadow (4), love to camp, explore New Orleans, go to live music, have dance parties, and of course, love dressing up.