when the rivers join…

Over the weekend, my husband and I were sitting around a fire pit with some friends. We are having unseasonably warm weather, here in Pennyslvania, and it felt good to try and capture some of the “normal” we’ve lost due to the pandemic.

At one point my husband mentioned growing up near the river, and spending his youth swimming in it, jumping in, etc. I smiled a little bit, because while he and I did not know each other when we were younger, this was something that we had in common. After a twenty-seven year journey with this man, I looked at him and said “the coolest thing about us both doing that separately, is that eventually our two rivers came together.”

And it’s true.

Often, though rivers join, they also branch off again. It happens. It is natural. No matter whether they are patched with rapids, or pitch-black depth, these flowing bodies of water hold life. They are life.

So many of us want marriage to be this beautiful union, and it is. And sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes you’re in sync and other times it feels like you’re so incompatible that it may destroy you.

It’s normal. That’s life.

Sometimes the rivers branch off, but sometimes they come back together.

Today marks a special anniversary with this man and I. This man who is my partner in this winding life of adventure. We haven’t had a perfect relationship because no one does. We’ve had a real, honest and lived one, and honestly, that’s what counts.

I couldn’t imagine sharing the darkest parts of my life, or the brightest, with anyone else.

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.

a little lemon yogurt cup…

I don’t remember learning that I was pregnant again.

I DO remember that we couldn’t afford a baby and I was panicked about how to keep the light bill paid, have some semblance of food in the house, and the timing seemed overwhelming. We didn’t even have the “luxury” of a telephone, which is a thought I cannot even fathom now.

Months into our marriage, it felt morally different this time. The deeply buried shame surrounding my first pregnancy, and loss, belonged in the past. This time it was all different.

I was differenent.

It was all right, and proper. Even though it heaped onto the stress of struggle, we were excited about this little baby our love had made. We saw ahead to only good things…

It was a completely ordinary day when the spotting occurred. In a panic, I went to my neighbor’s house to phone my ob-gyn first, and my husband (at work) second. The doctor wasn’t worried, but wanted me to come in anyway. My husband was trying not to worry, across the phone lines, as he assured me he’d be home as soon as he could. These were the days before cell phones. The days of a shared car, and living in the middle of nowhere because it was cheap.

I waited, resting and paranoia-still, in the embrace of our waterbed. It felt like it took forever for my husband to make it home. Eventually I drifted off, into a dream where I rocked my baby in a warm room, streaming with rays of dusty sunlight. When he finally came through the door, and woke me with a kiss to the forehead, I knew that everything would be ok…

It was different this time.

My engineer minded husband, with all of his facts and science, grew so animated as he told me about how he’d felt prompted to stop at a yard sale on his way home. He didn’t know why, but as he quickly scanned the table, he’d seen these three adorably vintage nursery dishes and he knew they were meant as a sign.

“It’s different this time!” He’d said the words I was gripping, so tightly, hope pouring from his mouth as a glint shone in his eyes. The hope from him poured all over me. I was usually the one who chased after signs and clung to the projected evidence I needed so desperately to believe in.

Last time, he’d been so detached. Wasn’t his presence proof enough that our baby would live? He was usually so negative, wasn’t his optimism the evidence I needed?

For the thirty minute drive, the man I loved chattered on and on about the nursery and how cute it would be.

“you love to decorate and I can’t wait to see the home you make for this baby!”

Signs, signs… everywhere were signs

In the waiting room I was, naturally, surrounded by other pregnant women there for routine appointments. I allowed myself to live in their energy. They baby bumps became more of the same signs I was seeking. I’ve been wearing maternity clothes for a few weeks now, once that happens, it’s obvious the baby is going to be just fine. I spoke the lies deep within the confines of my mind. They were naive reassurances for me, but also bargaining tips for God, as if to say “you’re the one who let it get this far, so don’t you owe me now?”

On the other side of the waiting room door, my doctor saw no concern.

The spotting was light. “Normal”, his monotone delivered. An ultrasound showed a healthy baby boy, and his words literally promised us there was nothing to be concerned about. He sent us home with bedrest instructions, and we floated the entire way.

My mother was my best friend in those days, and I was too elated of the news that our baby was a healthy boy, so before I headed to bed I went next door to make a collect call.

It had been just over four hours since the spotting had started, as I stood at Heather’s yellow phone mounted on her kitchen wall. I wore a flowery cotton maternity shirt and white capri pants. My own baby bump was small, but present. Since it’s appearance, my left palm always wanted to cover it. As I stood there, I couldn’t stop touching that tight, round tummy. I remember how divinely bright the world seemed, reminding me of my sweet dream from hours before.

Everything was going to be ok.

The call wasn’t more than a few minutes long. Even so, before I was able to cradle the receiver, I felt the unexpected crack of an egg break against the top of my head. I still remember the feeling of that imaginary egg’s insides as they traveled through my head and down… Down my center, gaining momentum and force, until it pushed through to my toes.

It was instantaneous and jarring. My neighbor Heather let out a small scream, jolting me from the confusion of the moment. I looked down to note the now crimson crotch of my pants and the red quickly pooling, at my feet.

I ran to the solace of my own bathroom, my husband on my heals. As soon as I pulled my underwear down, we saw it there, our boy. Pink and palm size.

I could still see dusty sunlight everywhere.

From a thousand miles away, I could hear my husband’s wailing. I knew I had never heard an agony like the one escaping him, but I could not take my eyes from that which I held in my hand.

Was this him?

Was he gone?

This wasn’t how miscarriages happened. It was too fast. It hadn’t hurt at all.

The doctor had promised

Heather’d had the sense to call our doctor, and then drove us in. They’d asked us to bring the fetus, so we put him in a large plastic yogurt container because what else were we supposed to do?

I remember, it was from an old lemon yogurt. Lemon was, oddly, the only yogurt I’d ever been able to eat, but I loved it and ate it every chance I could. In those days of poor man’s meals, yogurt was a luxury.

I spent the long car ride staring so intently at that cup. Beside me I could still hear the devastation of my husband. Even more distantly I could feel the quiet-wet of tears upon my face.

“Yep, that was the tissue.” the doctor delivered, as he walked into the our exam room. His tone was the same as if he were announcing the appearance of junk mail, in the mailbox.

“I thought he was going to be ok?” my voice cracked some, as I asked it. I realized I had spoken nothing, and that my throat muscles had been strained tight for far too long.

With a slight chuckle he responded, “yeah, obviously I did too.”

He reminded me, as if I’d forgotten, that I had experience with miscarriage and to just go home and rest like I did before. Nature knows how to take care of things.

There was no physical pain until later that night. Two ER visits later I had an emergency procedure done, sans anesthesia or pain killer, in the hallway of a Caldwell Idaho hospital, by a resident doctor acting on impulse. I held my husband’s hand and screamed. It was a pain I’d never known before, and then we were sent home with a prescription of codeine. As the days passed, the pain only grew more intense. It would take an entirely different doctor actually listening to me, to solve the problem with one shot. Eleven days later, anyway.

Those days had my husband running into interstate traffic because he was so overwhelmed with the grief he felt. There was walls punched, agony screamed. Every day felt like the emotional equivalent of the pain from the hospital hallway.

Those days had me numb to the agony of loss, while consumed by the shame I felt at having not been able to give him a baby…I knew that this horror he was living, was because of me. The guilt I felt over not going home immediately and instead standing to call my mother. If I had done as I was supposed to, I was certain our baby would have lived.

Also, I felt stupid… Stupid for hoping. Stupid for believing. Stupid for thinking we could have a baby. We couldn’t even have a home phone.

I would never buy a lemon yogurt again…

I was 18 and he was 20.

Our pregnancy had been just shy of 16 weeks along.

~~~

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.

brink…

It was the September of my 20th year when the combination of feel and scent in the air took me back, ala’ movie montage moment, to so many Septembers past. High school Septembers, Jr. High autumn evenings. Flooding, internally, from one to the next.

When I was thirteen, I declared I would one day have a daughter and name her September. It turns out that I neither had a daughter, nor named a child (or pet) that. I do not regret this, just so we’re clear.

All in all, if we were keeping score, September probably shouldn’t be a favorably definitive month for me. It was when school years began, and growing up I was not a lover of school. September marked my first full month as a group home kid, when I was 12.

It carried me into my two definitive adolescent romances, which led, in different ways, to deeply broken hearts…

It also, in fairness, introduced me to my husband, when I was seventeen. That September nearly killed me, as I dealt with a health crisis of extreme proportions, which may (or may not- we will never know) have led to my inability to carry a pregnancy to term. Pretty much nothing, at all, was going remotely ok that September, but in walked Chw and I knew that the two of us would be married, so for that I will declare September 1993 a victory.

A year later, September would bring us full circle, to a horrific miscarriage.

Why it stands out to me that Septembers marked more loss than gain, I’ll never know. Sometimes my biggest gifts (I met each of the kids I loved like a mother loves, in Septembers. First, 2000 and then 2003.) Beautiful gifts, further falling in love and inevitable heartbreak.

Shattering.

Destroyed irreparably.

September…

Two of my three beloved dog besties were laid to rest in Septembers.

My husband left me for another woman in September. Though we reconciled two years later, that first September had us glued to the tv as planes hit the towers and we gained perspective unlike we’d ever had before.

SO MANY milestones of trauma mark the ninth calendar month, of the year.

And still… still, I find myself to be a lover of September. The autumn air ushers in this crisp scented magic, and I am here for it.

This year’s janky calendar had hoards of people unable to wait for summer, because summer would fix the world.

Then it didn’t.

And now, now people are chasing after pumpkins, and spice and new sweaters earlier than ever, with a misplaced faith in this next season bringing the reset needed to right the world.

I don’t know… Maybe it will. September has proven to be a magical and tricky beast. These Sept’s of past have been known to bring about some incredibly unexpected gifts- I’ll just caution us all to be weary.

Whatever these days actually hold, (and let’s be honest- it’s 2020, September could bring us ANYTHING!) I’m pretty certain we will arrive at the first of October scathed in someway.

For all of us, I hope it is a beautiful healing way… A restorative way.

I’m cautious, but also here for it. Despite the track record, I’m a September girl through and through…

yesterday…

Yesterday was one of those days when you log on, for one reason or another, and are bombarded by the news…

*The shattering grief and updates from Kobe & Gigi’s memorial, for one. I have so many thoughts and feelings on the pieces of that, which flooded my twitter feed, but they aren’t important in this space. The grief is felt by a giant community of fans and human beings, let us not forget though that the actual grief belongs to the people who really knew them. Their grief is not meme worthy, front page headline/clickbait fodder, or appropriate for anything beyond us kindly giving them space to have it…

*The news of Katherine Johnson passing was remarkably sad and humbling. As someone who works, every single day, with women, I hope that I never cease to find myself in awe of the brave and powerful women who have accomplished many amazing feats, simply by engaging in their authentic journey. She lived 101 deep years, may we honor her and her family for that many more years to come…

*Harvey Weinstein was found guilty of rape. He is facing trial for four additional counts. (I realize I don’t normally delve into topics like this, but bear with me a minute, please.) If convicted on these additional charges, Weinstein faces a max sentence of 25 years.

The definition of rape is: To take something by forceful robbery or spoiling.

Most people would agree that rape is a violent crime, even when a weapon is not directly involved. A black man, in America, who is convicted of one violent robbery could face up to 25 years in prison. Tell me, how is this justice then, regarding what Weinstein has done? (And mind you, there are many other women. Twenty years ago, women were warning Hollywood newcomers to steer clear of him.)

It is worth noting: I have been clear that while I believe Weinstein is a monster. I also believe that he was shaped to become such, by an industry of powerful men who abused women in every possible manor, simply to keep them dependent and controllable. Why should a woman’s life have little value? The effects of psychological trauma and sexual assault, at the hands of Weinstein AND men like him, shape her life in unimaginable ways and will stay with her until she dies…

*I’m not even going to talk about the health or political nightmares continually on rotation, in the news… My point is, that the news is a VERY small portion of what real life looks like. As I type this, my dear friend is sitting vigil, waiting for a family member to pass. My own mother in law lost her sister, this weekend. A sweet friend experienced a terrifying moment with her son yesterday. A dear friend is grieving the loss of her baby girl… Miscarriages are happening; terminal diagnosis are being given; marriages are ending, and the loved ones belonging to every day people, are taking their last breaths…

The news is overwhelming, because LIFE is overwhelming.

When we allow ourselves to be consumed by all of the negative- getting swept up in all of the FEAR directed our way- we will drown. Maybe our heart will go on beating, but surviving is not living.

I’m encouraging us to change the way we see things, starting TODAY.

  • Acknowledge the hard things with grace and love.
  • Extend kindness whenever possible.
  • Listen to our instincts when they encourage us to fill a gap. (tell her she looks pretty in that sweater, offer to bring a family a meal, buy that person’s coffee, etc…)
  • Keep stock (an actual list, if possible) of the beautiful things happening around you. Big things, small things, even if all you can find is that first sip of your morning coffee, when the flavor and temperature are just right. We HAVE TO CLING to the good bits with FAR MORE tenacity than we reflect on the bad.

Yesterday was a hard news day.

Yesterday was a hard day, for a lot of people I love.

It is quite possible that yesterday was overwhelming for you too.

Yesterday is over. Sure, there are ways its contents can reach into today, and beyond, but we can’t worry about yesterday anymore.

Focus on TODAY. Find your things, and hold on tight…