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.

On being naked…

Over the past month, or so, I’ve been really privileged to spend evenings in deep conversation with various women who were guests in my home. Sometimes there was laughter, and quite often there were tears. In some instances there were glasses of wine, while every time there was an abundance of food. In these moments I found myself humbled by the absolute magic that forms when we simply bring women together, in a cozy environment, and let them be. Let us be, because this includes me too.

Women are so heavily armed in layers. Many design their layers out of fashion and appearance, but in truth these shields of armor are much deeper in roots than that. While our multi-tasking minds can be a huge asset in many areas of life- it is a hinderance here. Subconciously we can judge another woman in an effort to make ourselves feel validated, while simultaneously obliterating our perception of self worth in the very same fragment of a second that we are taking stock of the countless negatives we bring to the room. It is exhausting… And we walk around under the weight of these silent, habitual patterns twenty four hours a day.

Until the magic moments happen, anyway…

Lights low, maybe a little background music. Glasses full, with whatever she wants- no judgement here… Around purply-plump grapes, cubes of cheese, warm breads piled with butter and richly colored seasonal produce. Everything warm and pleasant- slowly our layers fold back. A woman opens up about a heartbreak, and every single time another tears up because she can relate.

In that space it is suddenly safe to be truly naked, naked from our self protection and our shames. In that space we are seen.

In the times that this has happened, over these past weeks, the magic moment of amber beauty has caught me off guard, stealing my breath, every single time. You’d think I would be better prepared, but I am not. I finally realized why- because we cannot script or plan for these times. They cannot be forced or coordinated. The stripping and pealing of layers must happen organically, on their own.

May we find more naked moments…

Sisterwives and weeds…

One evening last week I found myself sitting in a cluster of tables with several other women. They were all new to me, and I was not alone in that. We sat nibbling on cookies, chewing on Starbursts and getting to know each other. It was really nice. We chatted about babies, and real life stuff, our jobs, some dreams (both fulfilled and unfulfilled) and eventually the conversation gravitated to the message (from the Sunday before) that some of us had heard at church.

The story had been about faith, and had centered around Hannah’s story, in the book of 1st Samuel. (If you aren’t familiar, it’s ok. This isn’t actually a post about anything church or Christianity related, so sit tight…) Hannah wanted desperately to have a baby with her husband, but despite her prayers (spanning years) she hadn’t been able to get pregnant. Reading this, as we do with most character stories, one can get swept up in Hannah’s ache, especially if you’ve shared in that same ache in any way. Hannah’s husband had two wives, and his other wife Peninnah, does not share this problem. (of course she doesn’t, because anyone who has struggled with infertility knows- the infertile bring imaginary fertility luck to those women around them!) side note- having lived the life of miscarriage and infertility, I can only imagine how painful Peninnah’s pregnancies and childbirths were for Hannah…

The book is clear to point out that, not only was Peninnah continually giving their husband children, but she was also an absolute nightmare to Hannah. She treated her like absolute garbage. We humans love a good villain story, and so with the tale of Peninnah and Hannah, we cast Peninnah as the villian.

Which sets the foundation for the path that will lead us to my actual point: I have been thinking a lot about Peninnah. This woman from thousands of years ago has been heavy on my heart. At some point in our lives, every woman has been her own version of Hannah- desperately aching for something. What we are less likely to admit to ourselves, or talk about is the seasons of life where we’ve been our own versions of Peninnah. We LOVE to talk about how society or culture have made women catty, petty and manipulative. While these contributing factors haven’t helped, they merely magnify issues women struggle with anyway. At the root of Peininnah’s complete and utter bitchiness towards her sister wife, we have a woman. Period.

Peninnah was someone’s baby, she was a young girl playing with siblings and friends. She had a giggle unique to her, and had cried her fair share of guttural sobs over her own aching life hole. This woman had painful menstrual cramps, likely suffered headaches, seasonal allergies and took pride in the special way she did something. She probably spent many a night watching the stars, her arms wrapped tightly around herself. She may have spent monotonous chores imagining her life differently. This assumed villain is merely an insecure and (at least partly) broken woman. She probably woke up in the mornings feeling like shed never be enough…

She is us. Every single one of us.

Circumstances (being a husband, culture, security and comparison) created division between these two women. When a deep sisterhood and kinship could have been a beautiful thing, that is not what happened. We each have lived that story as well. Sometimes it’s about a man, a friend, a job, an ex, a law, a religion, a life choice- we still allow reasons to divide us from other women. Rather than allow ourselves to be splayed raw, and vulnerable simply for the purpose of comforting and lifting another woman from a dark and shattered place, we stay “safe” behind our walls. This may look like ignoring her, or it may look like tearing her down even more. We fear our vulnerability being wounded so deeply, sometimes, that we wound instead.

In a podcast episode I listened to, last week, with Melinda Gates, she talked quite a bit about how- when you want to bring change to an underprivileged area, you reach out to the women. We women are capable of being beautiful, unending sources of nurture and empowerment to those around us… This is nature, it is how we are designed. When we fail to embrace this, we instead fill that drive within us with negative emotions and comparisons towards other women. Peninnah and Hannah deserved better, they needed better. While the support of their husband, and his sensitivity towards Hannah’s infertility were likely comforting- had Hannah had Peninnah there to grieve with her, every single woman reading this KNOWS that would have been significantly more impactful.

Weeds and flowers are capable of residing in the same garden, but we all know that weeds are far more aggressive and will eventually choke out the healthy growth if they are allowed to remain. We are responsible for what we allow to grow in our hearts, in our minds, and what we allow to consume our thoughts…

This is kind of a jumbled mess of thoughts, but I hope, if you’ve stuck it out this long, you’re with me. Let’s make the world of womanhood be the one these two women deserved, a world we each deserve. None of us are exempt from a deep soul ache, just as not one of us is without a smudge of bad behavior towards another woman. Imagine the incredible that lives just beyond those walls of self protection, if we’d just allow ourselves exposure to soul-connect with other women.

THIS, this is what would change the world…

I’m ok, you’re ok…

photo-1438979315413-de5df30042a1There is a virus, or exhaustion, (or perhaps a virus by exhaustion) making its way through our house, this week. We’ve each got a touch of it, somehow. These are the sort of things which don’t seem to fit into the to-do lists and planners, thus leading to frustration. Yesterday, (which I’ll get more to in a bit) found me waking with a massive headache, 2 hours AFTER I wanted to wake. Sleep had been rocky up until about 3 hours before I actually got up, so that was pretty awesome. I had half an hour to dress and head to a class I am taking, led in video sessions, by Shauna Niequist. Also factor in the emotional and defiant teen, who has been a bit of a struggle this week, and it made for not the best half hour. I showed up, to the class, barely dressed, without make up and crowned with crazy, curly hair. Who knew it would be a class filled with gorgeous, fit, SAHM’s, all so put together I double checked to see if I had walked into a magazine spread shoot.

I made it through the class and breakout session somewhat managed. Yay me. On my way home I had to stop by the supermarket for a cake. See, yesterday was our Family Anniversary with Gen. For those of you not familiar with adoption stuff, it would mark the day (13 years ago) that Gen came into our family. We do something special to mark the occasion every year, usually on the weekend. Even so, Gen and I had decided we would have a little cake or something to mark the day of. So, off I went to buy a tiny cake. And crusty bread, to go with dinner. And bananas, because the other day they were all not the best looking. And Ice Cream, to go with the cake of course. And $70 later, my quick trip for a cake added to my frustration.

Upon getting home, the awesome dynamics of the day, the hormones, the defiance and my headache all meshed together quite lovely, leading me to abandon everything on my agenda and crawl into bed. (Now, the night before I had another class, with my husband. And I was making a delicious dinner for him and his coworker before hand. And that all went downhill rather quickly causing me to melt down into fits of sobs and why me’s… It was incredibly attractive, I’m sure. Yesterday honestly felt more like a continuation of Tuesday and the same sorts of things.) I made a new recipe last night, which the family loved but I just couldn’t stand the taste. When the cake, later, also sat on my palette flavorless I had to admit I’m headed towards needing to take sick leave, only- PLOT TWIST- no sick leave here! So, I kept trucking. I cleaned the kitchen while the family vegged. I woke up early to take care of other sickies, make tea and distribute meds. Nothing major, except that after three days of what feels like minimal rest, I’m feeling achy and done.

This morning I sit in bed, cup of tea (Wonder Woman cup, no less) with my laptop, two classes of homework and my planner all spread out before me. Laundry will not be put away today. I will only get dressed, in yoga pants, when it is time to go take Gen to work and pick up last-minute ingredients for homemade chicken noodle soup. Here’s the thing though, guilt is weighing on me worse than any 3-4 day headache, back pain or muscle ache. Why haven’t I done this or that, which has been shuffled on my to-do list daily. Why is this basket of unfolded laundry sitting here? What is wrong with me, I never had unfolded laundry! Why can’t I simply take care of these things, there isn’t that much! Why have I managed to watch a collective two hours of The Mindy Project on Hulu?  I have friends who work real, actual paycheck jobs and take care of the house and parent the kids and make it work. What is my issue this week?  Truth? There will always be someone who seems to have their stuff together, someone who manages to juggle it all flawless without a strand of hair out-of-place. I think that up until everything fell apart last fall, I seemed to be that person to a few. It’s not that they were wrong, and it isn’t that I was wrong. It is simply that we can’t compare because we all have different shoes, with different tread and walk on different surfaces of life. Who cares if this girl seems to have it all together, and who cares if that girl clearly doesn’t. Let’s not compare and not compete. Let’s acknowledge that in our genuine authenticness we are women and we are beautiful. What makes us beautiful is not our perfect hair, or flawless skin or our airbrushed appearance makeup application. Each of those things can be nice, but none of them equal beauty. When we are stressed, or tired, or alone- there is no amount of product or shopping which will make us look stunning. We wear this in our posture, in our face and in our reactions toward others. Womanhood is beauty. Period. Womanhood is also meant to be sisterhood, which means we are a community of women knit together to help one another, share burdens and love and make it work because one woman’s success truly is another’s.

I am tired. My head hurts. I don’t feel well at all. My back is killing me and I just feel worn out. There is nothing wrong with me, as woman/wife/mother/writer authentically stating this. We think there is, because it has been heavily implied that we need to appear as though our crap is together 24/7. If we don’t, (and even when we do) we run the great big risk of internet trolls trashing on our photos/posts/tweets. Let the haters hate, it very well may be the only skill they have. This applies to the ones hiding on the internet as well as the snooty women we cross paths with out in the world. I am a woman, with this one shot at life, I think I’ve decided to do it authentically. Behind on laundry, to-do list ignored, fifty loads of dishes per day and my house looking lived in while I plant myself in bed for an hour to watch Catfish– this is authentically me, from time to time. And that is ok…