October 26th, 2000

I was twenty-four years and seven months old, to the day.

The doctor who had saved me with a shot six long years before had been the one to tell me, with saucer wide eyes, that my uterus had been the biggest mangled mess he’d ever seen.

That poor piece of me had survived through so much brutality. I was sad that she was gone, but also relieved too.

My eighty-nine year old soul was tired…

The thought of never having to wonder if I was pregnant, or if I’d lose a baby again, was something only alive in my past.

Seven little babies who would never know me, my arms or the beautiful bits of this world, had become in that pocket of me. The excruciating loss of those seven little heartbeats would forever be the ugliest bits of this life, for me.

I had a scheduled procedure which led to an emergency hysterectomy. In the course of one day my body experienced the equivalence of a catastrophic train wreck in my endocrine system. As I lay, half drugged, in my hospital bed, the doctor tried explaining to depth of it all to me.

I could barely comprehend the reality that my uterus was gone, much less the information about my last ovary being taken too, the discovery of cancer cells, screenings for the rest of my life, or the hellish journey that lay ahead due to the sudden halt in my hormonal system.

My second day in the hospital resulted in the worst migraine I have ever known. While I screamed and throbbed, begging for help, the nurses had to restrain me because I had an abdomen full of sutures and staples that needed care. When I couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t help my head pain, they expressed their matter-of-fact answers about this being what happens when a woman loses her ovaries before her body is ready.

I was warned nearly every time that a doctor or nurse visited my bedside, that I was at an incredibly high risk of breast cancer now. I was also being automatically put on HRT (hormone replacement therapy), which they cautioned would increase my odds of breast cancer significantly.

“It’s a little scary that you’re so young and you’ll take it for so long. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared for you.” one nurse muttered, one morning as she took my vitals and changed my bandages.

In so many ways it seemed like there was a community opinion that I were there as some consequential result of a horrible decision I’d made.

There had been so many hospitals, so many nurses and doctors, over those years. SO MUCH negative, so much pain, and so little compassion… When I was wheeled to the car, the day I was discharged, I was filled with relief at the closing of that horrible chapter.

It has been twenty long years since that day. Two decades of life and loss, love and light. So much time has passed, so many things forgotten, and yet…

And yet, I can travel back to those moments where my aching heart fragmented over and over again, in an instant. Trauma is like that.

I could be both the woman who had lost her babies, and the woman who flourished beyond those chapters of my life. It is possible to be both, because I am. Remembering the big, dark things, is as important as reminiscing about the brightly lit ones too. Life is a balance. Acknowledging the hard does not mean we won’t move on.

“Getting over” a horror, is not healthy. Let’s stop expecting that of grieving mothers. Those babies, though the other side of heaven now, are just as much a part of me, my story, my purpose and my every breath, as anyone’s babies are.

~~~

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 have shared 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.

p.s. three…

{image credit Debby Hudson}

Dear Mom, 

Although we are friends now, we haven’t always been in this place in life. When I was growing up, you were distant. Not distant in a way that I couldn’t see, hear or touch you, but you just had somewhat “checked out” as a mom. Being the baby of six kids, I always felt like maybe you gave birth to me but just didn’t want to raise another child. 

As I got older, I learned that you didn’t have the best upbringing yourself, losing your birth mother at a young age, having your father say he couldn’t care for his children so putting them in foster care (which ultimately tore you away from most of your siblings, except one sister), then being adopted and raised by a mother who wasn’t the best suited for the job. 

All of that made me realize you had some baggage to deal with. Maybe because of that baggage you just had no idea how to really be a mom. But then as I got even older, I learned of some things about you that probably led to you also not being a close mother to me during the formidable years.

I learned that you were raised Mormon, but broke the rules and got pregnant in High School. Because of that you were forced to leave that comfort and the support of home, you moved into a place with your boyfriend and started a family. The two of you were married and had 4 children together. He was a traveling sales man, leaving you alone to raise the children by yourself. I think this took a real toll on you and you got involved with another man and ended up pregnant. Although you attempted to hide this from your husband, he knew that child couldn’t be his. So he divorced you, so once again you were alone raising children, but now you are also pregnant and raising children. 

When your “baby” was a little over one, you met a man (who would ultimately become my father) and began dating him. The two of you eventually married, when your youngest child was 2 years old. When your youngest child was 4, you gave birth to another child (me). I am not sure if I was a planned pregnancy or if you were giving your husband a child he wanted. But either way, you never seemed ready for another child. Even reading back in the baby book put together for me, the comments you wrote in the book are shocking. When the book asks you to document what you thought when you found out you were pregnant, you wrote “I hope this is the last”. When it asks what your first thoughts were when you first laid eyes on me, you wrote “its a girl”. I would’ve hoped your answers would have been a little more enthusiastic. 

You and my dad filled your lives with lots of alcohol and partying. You would also get involved in the “Swinger” lifestyle, hosting parties at your home. These parties were often full of food and alcohol and lots of people, while us kids were told to go to the basement and stay there until we were told to come up. I remember venturing upstairs once, because the smell of the food was just too tempting, and although I didn’t “see” anything, to this day I can remember the panic on your face as you tried to scurry me back down to the basement. It wasn’t until I was much older that I found out from one of my siblings that you guys were Swingers. Then I started piecing all that together. 

My point here, Mom, is this: I know you love me. I know you genuinely want the best for me. I now feel like we can talk about anything and you always have good advice. It has taken us some time to get here though and although you played a bigger role (being a more mature, motherly figure that should have been your role) I also take some responsibility in keeping us from a wonderful relationship for all those years. 

Love you!

We are them too…

There is this amazing time-lapse video bouncing around the internet that shows the blossoming of various mushrooms deep within forested areas. It is absolutely fascinating, disgusting, inspiring and flat-out-weird all at once. Isn’t that life, though? Most of the time.

As humans, we stumble upon stories ripped straight from the lives of others. The horrific crimes we can’t comprehend, the amazing tales of survival and super human fathomings. We love the miraculous, the oddly tragic- the real life stories. To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever been inspired to do something bold, brave or heroic after looking at an individual, upon hearing about their boring upbringing, which was followed closely by their average college, marriage and work experience, carrying them to this point of completely mundane normalcy. Films and books certainly aren’t written about people like this.

Two reasons for this are:

  • because that sort of life wouldn’t really inspire much of anything. (Maybe a little envy from someone whose lot in life has been particularly harsh.)
  • That sort of life doesn’t really exist. A perception of that sort of life can, but that sort of life itself? It’s not even possible. There may be seasons when we identify with feelings that our own journeys have been that uneventful. There will be other times, perhaps when we’re drowning in our own overwhelm, and we may perceive someone else’s seemingly drama free life is just like that.
  • bonus point- the moral of the lesson here is, just because something may look, or feel a certain way, in a moment- doesn’t mean that it is.

That idea, the idea of normal + boring, I think most of us have pretty wrong. We think, in times of distress, that this must be what simplicity and peace is like. It wouldn’t be. That imaginary life I’ve described? It is a one dimensional, apathetic version of what we minimize in our minds. Period. We only feel our lives are dull and boring, when we are discontent in our own circumstances. We only reduce someone else’s story to such when we are attempting to reduce them, in our minds, or when our circumstances feel too big/loud and we long for small/quiet. It is a perception. Period.

If we could see a time-lapse of our own lives, we would be amazed. There are hardships and heartbreaks we’ve all known, and many of us are living them as I type this. Sometimes it is easy to hear the circumstances of our own journeys in comparison to another person and think we have nothing to share. It isn’t true. Each and every one of us have lives comprised of many things, things both beautiful and horrifying, that others may need to see.

We love the stories of the hero who lived through incredible difficulties, overcame extreme odds and we sit through the movies and documentaries about them, awed. They inspire us. We read books about them, tell others about them, and often make changes in our own lives because of the incredible examples those people were. Our entire world is built on the foundation of everyday people living through something and then paving the way for a better future because of it. (NOT despite it. BECAUSE OF IT.)

Guess what, friend- you and I? We are that very sort of person. The abuses we’ve known, the mistakes we’ve made- these things can bury us in their rubble, if we let them. How do we not allow that to happen? We choose not to let it. We move on, altered for the better, because. Because, because, BECAUSE- Always.

Someone, somewhere, can see the time lapse of your life (in a sense… not an actual time-lapse video, because that would honestly be awkward for everyone.) and move forward, for the better, too. The mushroom is merely a fungus, living on the ground, and sprouting from the mildewed bits of dirt on the forest floor. Often they are toxic. Sometimes they can make people happy, or paranoid, or what have you. Some of them are ugly, many are beautiful and often they are an annoyance. They come from the worst, often remain the worst- but their journey when viewed with a nutshell perspective is mesmerizing.

Friend, we are so much more than forest fungus. We may come from the worst, but we don’t have to settle for becoming that.