Traveling to get lost helped me find myself after tragedy


I’d been in Saint Lucia less than 24 hours and already I felt antsy. It didn’t help that the resort was only 10 minutes from the airport, or that we were handed a rum punch the minute we walked into the hotel lobby. Thirty minutes after getting off the plane, I was sitting under a palm tree on a blue and white striped towel reading a book.

The resort was nice, the drinks were free. From my cushy lounge chair I could hear the waves, and see the ocean, vast and blue. Off in the distance, the land jutted out into the sea on either side of me. People were getting ready to get ready to line up at the buffet for dinner. Tacos and empanadas, I overheard somebody say. None of it helped.

I was depressed, but I don’t think anyone could tell.

I took a sip of my drink, the local beer Piton, and it reminded me of college, Pearl Jam — that song “Alive.” I felt anything but alive as I tossed the book I couldn’t get interested in aside, threw on shorts and a tank over my swimsuit, and decided to take a walk. I told my husband to watch our kid, who was splashing around in the pool

Ten months earlier, I lost a child. Not my first. There have been six altogether. Six pregnancies. Six losses. The last one was the hardest one, because I was five months along when he decided to leave this earth. One minute I was in labor, and the next minute I was being handed a list of funeral homes and crematoriums.

I had to take a year off from working as a flight attendant after that. The thought of being asked to hold a baby — or even having somebody yell at me over nothing. A broken seat light, a middle seat, running out of chicken in first class.

I went to Saint Lucia to get lost, blend in, disappear. Which wasn’t hard to do at this all-inclusive resort five minutes from the airport. But I was still restless.

Walking onto the beach, I picked a direction at random.

“Venture at your own risk,” read a wooden sign stuck in the sand. The risk being — I looked around — seaweed? Another American tourist? There was nothing else.

More than anything I wanted there to be something else, anything else, that could distract me. Something to make me forget everything I’d been through. I found tire tracks leading back to the hotel, and followed them with my eyes to a seaweed removal machine behind a cluster of palm trees. Still I hoped for more as I turned the corner and imagined signs of life: colorful cottages, half naked children, laundry flapping in the breeze.

Instead I found more of the same: Sand, seaweed, a big blue beautiful ocean and a kayak on a deserted beach. Paradise.

Disappointed, I turned around and went back to my chair.

“We’re renting a car,” I told my husband.

“How much longer do I have to feel like this?”

“How much longer do I have to feel like this?” I’d asked my mother every single day leading up to our vacation. She was the only person I could talk to about it, the only person I knew who wouldn’t worry about me simply because I wanted to talk about it, the only person I didn’t make uncomfortable just by talking about it.

She assured me the feeling would pass, and that things would get better, over time. I wasn’t so sure about that.

Time takes too much time when you’re feeling down.

It’s hard losing a baby, but dealing with people who can’t deal with you afterward is even worse. A lot of people knew I was pregnant. At three months along, I probably looked more like six months. It’s how it is for the women in my family; I come from a long line of very large pregnant women.

And so everyone knew: parents at my son’s school, parents on the soccer team, parents at the music school, parents I rarely spoke to but saw on a daily basis. Then, all of a sudden, I was clearly no longer pregnant.

Some parents seemed confused and asked me about my weight loss. Others congratulated me and wanted to know what I’d named the baby. Then there were the majority of people who just kept their distance. No eye contact, no questions — they may as well have been running away. My deflated belly had become my scarlet letter.

I couldn’t wait to get away from it all in Saint Lucia.



One comment

  1. Heather … huge condolences on your lost child … to you and your whole family! Thanks for writing this up!

    I love St Lucia … many great memories there. Suggestion for next stop: Dominica … a tiny little island with good roti, great hikes, and wonderful people. It may be the poorest island, but it’s pretty close to the best for kicking back and reconnecting.

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