Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart by Dianna Vagianos Armentrout
Publisher: White Flowers Press (May 22, 2016)
Category: Self-Help, Grief & Bereavement, Parenting & Relationships, Spirituality, Healing from Loss
Tour dates: Oct/Nov, 2017
Available in Print & ebook, 130 pages
Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief, and Infant Death breaks the lonely, silent suffering of bereaved mothers facing infant and pregnancy loss. Dianna Vagianos Armentrout details her pregnancy journey with her daughter, Mary Rose, who died an hour after the birth of trisomy 18, a random genetic illness described as ìincompatible with life.
For five long months of pregnancy, she knew that her baby would not live and thrive, planning a funeral and seeking hospice for her unborn daughter. The heaviness of this grief, which most women bear alone, is shared here and will comfort mothers who have experienced miscarriage, stillbirth and infant death.
With eloquent language, fierce honesty and a record of the rawness of grief, readers in the midst of their own suffering will recognize the path that bereaved parents walk. Diana’s experiences with infertility, motherhood, infant loss and miscarriage infuse her writing with compassion for all women.
Through journal entries, essays and poetry, Dianna invites the reader to process grief and honor the life of the child, no matter how brief. In addition, readers will learn how to support the bereaved by remembering the baby and pregnancy.
Finally, there is a book to honor the pregnancy, baby, and loss, loving the children past their death, loving the wombs that nurtured them and accepting the sacred path of mothering children whose bodies are broken, but whose souls are intact and perfectly whole. This book shines with love and the knowledge that even the briefest life is holy.
Read it. Share it. Spread the word. We no longer have to grieve our infants and pregnancies alone.
Praise for Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart by Dianna Vagianos Armentrout
This beautifully written story of loss and redemption is a must-have for anyone who has faced the devastation of losing a child. Yes, you will cry with Dianna, but you will also admire the beauty of her soul.î- Mary Potter Kenyon, author of Refined By Fire, Chemo-Therapist, ëMary and Meí, et al
ìPregnancy is often thought of (and typically is) a time filled anticipation and joy.† The deep, dark secret is this: pregnancies are sometimes lost.
Dianna Vagianos Armentrout, author of†Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart, shows us the inner workings of that harsh reality. With beauty and rawness, she shows the innermost parts of her heart as she journeyed (and journeys) through the “diagnosis” of a Trisomy 18 baby.†She shows us her emails, journals, poems, and the “art” of grieving. She explains that the loss of a child is not the end of loving that child. Nor is the grief something that goes away a few weeks after the funeral.
It is a heartfelt and honest†read that I would highly recommend to any woman who has dealt or is dealing with a defect. It would also be beneficial to any woman who is dealing with the loss of a baby. Dianna writes the way her spirit is: open, raw, beautiful. She walks with every mother who has ever lost a child.î- Gloria Miles, Simple Miracles Birth Services
ìDianna Vagianos Armentrout takes the grief and heartache of her journey and creates a space that opens hearts. Dianna has written a seminal book that will resonate with those who know the primal pain of losing a child from stillbirth, miscarriage or newborn death. To moms reeling in deep grief, Dianna offers words and comfort and, in doing so, creates a circle of tear-stained realness, fortitude, and big love. Brava! This book poignantly and beautifully sings the heart’s song of infant loss.î- Adele Ryan McDowell, Ph.D., author of ëMaking Peace with Suicideí and ëBalancing Actí
ìDianna is an amazing woman and a brilliant writer. This book is useful to anyone who has experienced an infant loss or anyone who supports families experiencing infant loss. The work that she is doing in sharing her story is so important to help give perspective and help move through the natural process of death.î-Mr. Books, Amazon Reviewer
About Dianna Vagianos Armentrout
Dianna Vagianos Armentrout is a published writer, teacher, workshop facilitator and poetry therapist. She graduated from Adelphi Universityís Honors Program and earned her MAW from Manhattanville College. Diannaís pregnancy with her daughter, Mary Rose, who died an hour after birth of trisomy 18, changed her life completely. Her blog, Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart, was launched in April 2015 as a way of offering support to others going through pregnancies with difficult and fatal diagnoses.
Dianna wishes to change the cultural fear of death and social awkwardness around the bereaved by educating others to be present and open to the natural process of death. Not knowing what to say is fine. Letís sit together quietly not knowing what to say about our most difficult and sacred losses, because a loving community is vital to the healing of the bereaved in our broken world. Dianna volunteers with Isaiahís Promise as a peer minister, and canít help sending ìHealing Companionî cards to mothers facing pregnancy and newborn losses.
Diannaís poems, short fiction and essays have been published in several journals and anthologies, including The Vermont Literary Review, The Connecticut Review, The Dos Passos Review, Melusine or Women in the 21st century, Sacred Fire Magazine, Sensations Magazine, and Inkwell. She has taught at Southern Connecticut State University, Quinnipiac University and The Graduate Institute, and has facilitated poetry workshops in the tri-state area. As a poet and teacher, she believes that everyone has the inherent gift of poetry. Her workshops create the space for people to be still and access their own words, images and metaphors as they step into their healing.
She lives at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. When she isnít writing or reading, she spends her time outdoors walking and gardening. Dianna also tinkers with recipes for paleo cookies and shares them with those around her.
Walking the Labyrinth of My Heart: A Journey of Pregnancy, Grief and Newborn Death
excerpt from “Preface” © 2016
by Dianna Vagianos Armentrout
My baby is dead. For five months of my pregnancy I knew that my daughter, Mary Rose, would die, though I did not know when she would die. What surprises me most is that I am alive. I am alive after the heartache of knowing about her condition, alive after holding her still body in my arms moments after her birth. Afterpains came with empty arms, as did my baby’s milk. Those months of pregnancy with the knowledge that our baby had trisomy 18 felt like a million years of sadness. Yet things change. As I approach the second anniversary of her birth and death, it is springtime and everywhere I look there are pregnant women and healthy babies. Time is moving quickly again, and I am catching up.
During my pregnancy I did not find much to comfort me. I am writing the book that I wish I could have read when I was pregnant with my daughter. When parents find out that their unborn baby has anomalies, they want answers. The medical community does not have all the answers to our questions, even as we undergo tests and come closer to the truth. Our mid-pregnancy ultrasound revealed that our daughter most likely had trisomy 18 or 13. I was 42 years old and there was talk about my “advanced” age. However, most babies with trisomies are born to mothers younger than 35. Mary Rose had cysts on her brain and a heart defect. She measured small and her hands were folded in the way of babies with trisomy 18. The best hope that the doctor could offer was that she would have Down syndrome and a heart defect. I now know that parents in our situation sometimes pray for a child with Down syndrome. Babies with Down syndrome live.
From the moment of the ultrasound, I entered a medical world that most pregnant women do not know exists. I learned the language of trisomy 18 and fatal diagnoses. I stopped answering my phone, and I looked around in sadness. My two-year-old son kissed my swelling belly, and I wept. My eyes were perpetually brimming with tears. My husband and I chose to carry our daughter to term. The life that God gave her would have to be enough for us.
We negotiated our reality the best that we could. We planned a funeral while pregnant, and we tried to prepare for the grief that would come later, while we mourned our pregnancy outcomes. There were not enough therapy hours to prepare me for the death of my baby. I was shocked when the pregnancy was over, when my daughter, who barely breathed, died. In the months that followed I had to find my footing in the thick molasses of grief. As I attempted to reenter “normal” life, I went to church and faced pregnant women and living newborns. I walked slowly in grocery stores while people rushed around me. It took me months to be able to speak to friends on the phone without weeping. Why doesn’t the world pause just for a moment after our lives are shattered by illness and death and grief?
It is very difficult to live with pregnancy and infant loss in our hyper-electronic, fast-paced, death-fearing American culture. I’m not sure how it is in other countries, though my family in Greece integrates death and tragedy in daily conversation. In this country there is not much space for those grieving babies and pregnancies. We hear, You can have another, and, Aren’t you over that yet? People do not mention our babies. They do not speak their names. How do we understand juxtapositions like infant/death, mis/carriage, still/birth? Yet we walk at the crossroads between life and death when we deal with pregnancy and infant loss. Thankfully there are many online communities that meet some of our needs after a fatal diagnosis, but there is little support in our day-to-day life as we continue our lives without our babies. Sometimes people offer comfort initially, but not consistently through the months and years of our grief.
It is my intention and hope that this book comforts parents going through pregnancy and infant loss, particularly those whose pregnancy dreams have been shattered by medical news. Many people bury their children at different ages and stages of life. A pregnancy with the knowledge of death is a challenge that is worthy of further exploration. People say, I know how you feel, but I truly know. I have walked this path, and I hope that I can be of service and comfort to others by writing about my experience and grief process….
I see life as a spiritual path. I can only make sense of Mary Rose’s life if I look at it from a distance. I put myself in the context of my grandmothers and great-grandmothers. Women have been burying their children since the beginning of time. I am one woman who has walked this searing path of pain. Yet somewhere inside our hearts we have the strength to carry on, not to move on, as some would want us to do. We can continue our lives, taking our babies with us. Our arms are empty, but our hearts are full. The love that we have for our children, living or dead, grows. I do not believe in a final goodbye.
I am comforted by the thought that Mary Rose is beside me as I write, urging me on. Her soul has a purpose. Her body was the body she needed to do her soul’s work. I know that my daughter comforts people. I know that she prays. It is with this knowledge that I wake up each morning knowing that my two children were destined to be my son and my daughter. I bless them both as I step into each day and set the kettle to boil for another cup of tea.
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