fade to black…

It is not that I didn’t fight to get pregnant, and once I did, to stay pregnant. I did the holistic creams on the belly, I drank the raspberry leaf tea. There wasn’t an internet in those days, so whenever some well meaning person had some “advice”, I was willing to take it.

When I found out I was pregnant, for the third time, I was surrounded by all of the people who chimed in with third times a charm, as if this was some fun game I had been playing. I was working the night shift, in those days, at a physically taxing job. Immediately my doctor (new to me, because I was always on the lookout for a professional who seemed to care) notified them I was a “high risk” pregnancy, and while it seemed my employers were very irritated, they were flexible. It was only three short weeks of their begrudging accommodations, before a 3 a.m. call for an ambulance had me on the way to the hospital. The pain and the bleeding had ripped through me, from side to side, like the slash of a sword.

I remember I felt all at once devastated and matter of fact, as though I’d been holding my breath and waiting for this to happen.

I lost my baby. I was just under 8 weeks along, and there were odd complications so I was put on 7-10 days of bedrest, determined by pain and bleeding. Ultrasounds were less frequent, I guess, because once it was confirmed that I was miscarrying, the hospital didn’t feel one was needed.

We passed the days reading cheesy romance novels allowed, in bed. (well, Chw still went to work, but when he wasn’t working…) Somewhere along the 6th day, I received a registered letter (which I had to get up from bed to answer the door for, which felt like the icing on the cake of that situation) that I’d been fired from my job. While it wasn’t a loss to the caliber our baby had been, we needed the money and panic set in.

I never did like pulling up to that production plant, after that, which was something we’ve had to do fairly regularly as my mother-in-law still works there.

The ambulance ride had ushered us into the era that felt so much like a numbed out version of shampooing. Scrub, rinse, repeat… Scrub, rinse, repeat…

My fourth pregnancy, sometime later, had me miscarrying at 7 weeks, only to learn three weeks later that I’d been pregnant with twins and one had survived. This sweet little survivor became known as our miracle. It was hard not to feel a shift in the universe with this plot twist. I was put on bedrest and I was determined to make “this one stick”, but at 15 weeks, I was once again in the hospital saying goodbye.

Throughout the duration of both of my following pregnancy losses, I remember very little. It seemed I’d grown so skilled at the art of miscarriage that I went about it completely blank. I remember settling for a deli job close to home, and a lot of tension because my husband’s employer threatened his job often due to the missed time he’d had, from ER visits and my hospitalizations. He took that frustration out on me, which is valid. We were young. By the time we lost our seventh baby (6th actual pregnancy), he was done. His biggest reason was grief at work. I was not done. My biggest reason was my achingly empty arms.

Some people mean well, with the words they give the grieving. Some people don’t stop and think about what comes out of their mouths at all. In the five years that felt literally defined by struggle and loss, I had a lot of such words.

One time, flipping through the channels, late at night, I caught a seen from a horror movie. The face of a character morphed into this terrifying demonic being. I knew nothing about the context. I wasn’t even one to stay away from scary movies. Even so, decades later, that face will still randomly pop into my vision, and I hate it. This is similar to the ways those words stitch themselves into our souls. I hate them. I don’t cling to them, but forever they are there, reminding me.

Reminding me of my failure as a woman…

Questioning if I’m even a woman, since I can’t do the one thing women were made to do.

Highlighting my flaws, and how God, or even those precious little babies, chose to leave me.

I’m older now. I know better. I know just what to do with those words (and frankly, their speakers) but this doesn’t take away the instant power to knock me down, that the wordy memories have…

This week, on the Rainy Day Collective Podcast, guest Ashley Cherie is here sharing her story with loss and how she has used that pain in incredible ways, to restore rightness to the world around her. Her story is so inspiring and brave, and I hope you’ll check it out!

~~~

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Miscarriage and pregnancy loss is something seen as unacceptable to talk about, by more people than not. The silence translates a disregard and implies that we should know how to deal with this trauma… Cliche’ sentiments tell us that this loss of life was meant to be.

It is imperative for women’s emotional health and well being, that we share our stories and normalize our experiences with loss. It doesn’t matter if the mother was a teenager, or forty-two, loss is LOSS. There is grief and trauma and so many things that are so misunderstood and, tragically, so many things that women are encouraged to bury and ignore.

This month I will be sharing my stories here, and others via the podcast and social media. I will use my voice and platform to spotlight resources. I will adamantly state, for the record though, that I believe the most powerful resource we have is that of connecting and empathizing with others… Through one of the most isolating and lonely experiences in this life, I want to be a voice that tells others this: YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

four…

Growing up a little white girl, among a see of hispanic children was both hard, and it wasn’t. I mean, it WAS hard because I always felt like I didn’t fit in. Adding to that the fact that my mother was a smoker and the kids at school always made it a point to acknowledge that I was a Gringo, and stank. It also wasn’t hard though, because it was what I knew. I had no alternative to compare it to.

Childhood leaves us with the funnest memories, doesn’t it?

When I was a teenager I was living in a fundamentalist group home in (then) rural Idaho. Life was the sheltered sort, with the exception being church and youth group at a local “city” church. A mojority of the normal kids at church, living in their normal homes, going to normal schools and eating normal foods thought us group home kids were freaks. To be honest, their parents also saw us as dangers. It was an isolating and pretty scarring existence.

With this package deal attached to my early life development, there was also the personal feelings (SO MANY FEELINGS) that I had about NOT fitting in. Not feeling a part of things, sure. I had essentially been abandoned by my family and lived a daily life of rejection, so those feelings made a lot of sense.

I also didn’t WANT to fit in.

While everyone was listening to what was hot and trendy, following the current of what they believed kids our age were supposed to do, I teetered there, unsure.

Did I follow along, accept and finally achieve belonging?

Did I go with my gut and follow the less worn path of obscure movie tastes and worn out sneakers?

The struggle was real.

I believed the struggle would eventually subside as I matured into a woman, beyond the angsty years of teenagehood. I was wrong.

That eternal quest to belong equated itself with my sense of personal worth so deeply. Knit by (what I believed, at the time) the rejections, abuses and abandonment thematically designing my life, a melancholy hopelessness settled into everything I did.

I went into group home care in 1988.

I walked through that gate and into the real world in 1993.

I became a wife in 1994.

In 2017 I learned that, on the enneagram chart, I am a four.

Fours have big feelings. Fours are creative and artistic. Fours ache to fit in, but also want to dance to their own rhythm. (and their own, non-trend decided tunes) Fours are (likely) the 90’s emo kids. They are the ones not regularly depicted on screen, in film and television because they happen to (probably) be the real life people writing those characters and creating that art.

I embraced my four.

I connected with other fours.

Knowing these things, having these explanations, it’s like the comfort of filling the gaps I’ve lived with, unwhole, for my entire life. It also forces me to see where my flaws lie. The how’s and the why’s.

I am able to know “ok, these are things I’ll do when I’m at my emotional healthiest”, and “these are indications that I need to work some stuff out, because I’m struggling.”

So many times we’ve humorously mumbled about life not having an instruction manual, or people not coming with a guide.

Guess what? We do.

That is literally what the enneagram does for us.

Plainly put, it is EMPOWERING.

Owning our truths helps us with one another too. For instance, I know that if someone on my team is an enneagram two, they will be prone to saying “yes” and people pleasing. Knowing that, and asking a lot of them anyway would be exploitive and selfish. Additionally, being married to an enneagram nine has helped me realize he isn’t passive or apathetic, he is simply prone to not cause ripples. At his unhealthiest, this can be dark and explosive. Knowing these things helps me love and respect him the way he deserves. It helps me see all of him, and love him.

If you don’t know where you’re at, or want to learn more, I strongly recommend the Road Back to You, by Ian Cohn. Also, in this week’s episode of the Collective Podcast, Abbey Howe is hanging out and chatting random ennea-info with us. Her youtube channel Enneagram with Abbey is super fun and informative. (As is Ian Cohn’s podcast!)

A powerful thing…

A million years ago, we crossed into a new millennium.

I found myself a twenty-three year old divorcee with a trail of miscarriages, health issues and heartbreak in the jet streams behind me. Because I’d become a wife so young, and essentially achieved grown-up status as a child, in many ways it felt like I was beginning my life again.

With all of the change, why not add in my first solo-cross country move? I took a position in rural Kentucky and a Greyhound took me on the thirty-six hour adventure to my new life.

Prior to this unexpected chapter, I had always been the girl who prided herself on having an easier time forming friendships with guys, over girls. Sure, I’d had girlfriends, but I found it so much easier to be real with my guy friends. And then, suddenly I was in my new life, making new connections and friendships.

FORTUNATELY for me, the housing situation paired me with the sweetest girl, who I am still so grateful to call one of my dearest friends. Because we worked such long, and often opposite, schedules- it wasn’t super regular that we hung out. Quite often, the early foundation of our friendship was laid, brick by brick, around our shared kitchen table over Kraft mac and cheese, with music videos in the background and generic soda. We learned not only to laugh, and share, together- but I learned to heal and grow though that.

A few times, our days off aligned and we were able to take the winding mountain roads into town for a meal and some shopping. On one of these particular trips, normal for most girls but so foreign and mysterious for me, she mentioned needing lipstick.

I did not wear lipstick. In fact, I wore minimal make up. I didn’t love it, I didn’t understand it. I had never had anyone show or explain much of it, to me. I knew that my mother was glamorous and all about beauty, when she was in the mental health headspace to care about such things, but I’d left home long before I would have any interest in such things…

At some drug store, in small city Kentucky, my adorable friend Laura taught me about lipstick. She taught me about color matching, to the back of my hand, and about how a good lip color can bring with it the power to change an entire day.

Over the course of our months living near each other, this special girl would become the first deep female friendship I’d really know. She held my secrets and listened to the things. She would co-carry the load of inside jokes and sway with me to the rhythm of Dave Matthews, which was the very first magical thing to bond us. She would read a hilarious book, and then loan it to me so that we could swoon and talk about the same things. There are a thousand things my friendship with Laura shaped about my life, and the chapters of life that would unfold. I remember so much of it, etched clear as day, in my soul. The most prominent of memories though, is that Tuesday afternoon in the make-up aisle.

The truth us, a good lip color can deeply impact a lot of things, but the pure & honest friendship and support of another woman has the power to change the world.

I tell this story in this week’s episode {76} of the Collective. That is about the extent of what I bring to the table really, because our guest Katie Allen is an absolute FORCE and as she shared about reconnecting with herself, (and lipstick, I won’t lie) I was happy to just absorb her awesomeness. Women supporting women is a powerful thing!

and here we are…

A month ago I launched a mini, limited-run series on my podcast.

A month ago I prepared to celebrate turning 44.

I was hosting a giveaway for movie tickets and, for the most part, one month ago it was business as usual… We knew what the news was saying, and we heard what others were warning. It is so easy though, to live in a state of voluntary tunnel vision, isn’t it?

We human beings can pretend really well.

I was among the many, who grew more anxious about impending March changes, and yet somehow still felt blindsided when reality, Shelter in Place orders and infected numbers continued to rise…

Season three of our show was set to premiere mid-april. A powerhouse of a virtual conference was being designed for a few days later. Enthusiasm for both things was HIGH. Despite the looming threats, we had no idea how that would impact us, and how could we? The only thing we’d ever seen, remotely like the world suddenly feels, today, played out on the big screen.

When I line up guests and topics, for the show, I take a pretty organic approach. I usually follow the opportunities that come my way and seldom have to chase down a person. The upcoming season three was no exception. Most guests were scheduled and confirmed, by Thanksgiving. We were set to begin recording in March. It had all gone together so smoothly, it was easy to feel a sense of accomplishment as the calendar turned…

Ironically, there were several mental health experts, therapists and coaches lined up. As my team and I connected, via zoom, to meet our guests, mini therapy session began to unfold. While taking care of families, responsibilities, our lives and going through the minute-by-minute changes the world was sending our way- we were there on screen together, processing with experts along the way.

It was hard, and awkward, cathartic, vulnerable and all around necessary. Unplanned by us at all, we have weeks of conversations with really strong women, unfolding on the show. It’s amazing really, and humbling as I am once again seeing how important this journey is…

This week’s new episode is with Nicole Burgess. She is a psychotherapist, introvert empowerment coach and also has an awesome podcast! Within her interview the one thing you can expect is several jewels of wisdom and perspective. Nicole said so many healing and healthy things that I am sure you can hear me scribbling notes in the background.

Towards the end of this powerful episode, Nicole challenges us to determine an action step that we can do each and every day. I’ll admit, such a simple directive can be incredibly powerful during this season of uncertainty and self-isolation. (On her website, she has the opportunity for a free workshop that is also timely and relevant.)

Come listen to Episode 71, and learn along side us, better ways to get through this season, but also to give us essential items for our tool box of the future.

p.s. four…

Some days, I hate you. Some days, I wish you were something different. I cannot control you. Like the tides, you are unpredictable and change whenever you please. You are sensitive and easily irked. But other days…most days, I adore you. You are a part of me. You make me who I am. Set me apart from fifty per cent of the world and join me with the other half. You are the source of life. You make me feel both empowered and vulnerable. A channel of desire. A passage of two ways; giving and receiving. You cause me such anguish and distress and yet bring me indescribable pleasure. You are completely unique to my person, a part of me only I know. 

You’ve been with me through it all. Through every change that has evolved us into the woman we are today. But you have betrayed me in the past. Seen fit to humiliate me and trick me some days, leaving rose-red brands on my skin and clothes. Because of this, I felt ashamed to be one with you. And other times, I’ve felt fearful to call you mine. 

Weak and exposed. You are the constant reminder that I am different. As we grew, I came to realize that this part of me that stays hidden unless I want it to be seen can be wielded like a weapon. I blamed you for feeling frightened in the dark streets walking home alone. You became my Achilles’ heel; the thing that set me apart and left me open for attack. And one day, you didn’t belong to me at all but to someone else entirely. 

For a long time, I didn’t trust you. We became disconnected and I felt resentful towards you. For if you weren’t a part of me, I would never have been hurt. But time heals wounds and time helped me realize that it wasn’t your fault at all. It isn’t what’s between my legs that makes me different. It isn’t what makes me weak or what led to my trust being betrayed. You never betrayed me. If anything, I betrayed you. 

Truthfully, neither of us is to blame. Not me, young and naïve. And not you, an innocent participant that was abused. You do not make me vulnerable. It is the world around us that has made me think that. Made me think I need to feel ashamed of you. Society’s atrocious standards and victim- shaming agenda. It has made us believe that you are the problem. That the crown at the base of my thighs is my weakness. They lie. 

This part of me is strength. You can bleed for seven days and survive. You can give birth to life and thrive. You can be betrayed and stay alive. I will not be ashamed of you any longer. I will not be made to feel that you and I ever need to part. You are what makes me different. You and your idiosyncrasies. What you want is what I want. To be appreciated and adored. To be respected and never be ignored. I won’t let the world tell me that I am less because of you. I won’t let another person use you against me. I will never be ashamed of my strength again. You are perfect just the way you are. We’re in this together, Vagina. We are one and don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise.

{This post is part of a series of anonymous submitted letters both written here, and read via the Collective Podcast limited series: PostScript.}