a few hours into labor . june 2, 2010 (photo by our doula patti ramos)
Today, the scar that has not gotten smaller or faded, the scar that sits just beneath my belly, hurts. It hurts as though Ellie was born last week and not almost eight months ago. There is so much the doctor did not go over when she sounded like the last moments of a medical commercial as she listed all that might happen. She left out the parts about how my skin would be numb (perhaps forever) and that the scar would just hurt some days and that my body would still be reacting in unexpected ways months later. She left out a lot of things that became part of the story that makes up who I am on this day.
The part of me that is the realest me has a visceral reaction when I think about that doctor. The doctor who I met just hours before my daughter was born. I am pushed by some momentum outside myself to say that I am grateful. Of course, I am grateful that my little girl sleeps down the hall even after her intense entry into this world, and I am grateful that I am here writing these words.
But, I give myself permission to say that I am not grateful for pieces of what happened after I met that doctor.
In this moment, with the scar hurting and my baby girl asleep down the hall, I push myself to remember the beauty of the first 18 hours when I was in labor. My contractions were so close and intense that we all thought Eleanor Jane would arrive so very soon, but the story was to go another way. After many hours, the story involved medication and a doctor who allowed me to push for hours longer than I should have even though they knew a cesarean was imminent and an epidural wearing off in surgery and a woman experiencing the most significant trauma of her life with her minutes-new-to-this-world baby daughter’s cheek against hers and a decision not to start screaming but instead to find the place deep inside me filled with more courage than I thought possible, to just breathe, and then firmly say, “No, I am experiencing pain not pressure” and then more emotional trauma in the minutes and days that followed as no one quite understood what had happened to the woman who was awake during a surgery where the epidural wore off but she didn’t start screaming.
Months later, as the fears of what might happen have quieted just a bit in the months following Ellie Jane’s open-heart surgery, I have found myself sitting inside a bit of space to begin to unpack all that happened in those first few days of June. My heart and body went through a lot in those days. And for many reasons, I was not given the space (I was not in a place to give myself the space) that I needed. Just as we held Ellie Jane and took care of her in those first few days and in all the days that followed, I needed my own moments to be held. I needed someone to put her hands on my face and look me in the eyes and say, “What you went through should not have happened. I am so sorry you had to go through this. Even though I know you are grateful that she is here, I wish it had happened another way for both of you.” And then, I needed that person to hold me while I cried myself to sleep.
Yet, as I sit here with my daughter asleep down the hall, I look at the photo at the top of this post, and I remember how there was bravery and a feeling of being rooted in the best of who I am. I remember that there was music and there was dancing and there was chanting and a sense that nothing else existed but love. I remember the joy of knowing each breath meant one breath closer to seeing her face. I remember the kindness of women I had never met and how my husband was his most confident, calm self. I push myself to remember because this is part of the story; this is part of the woman who sits here gathering up the pieces of herself as she stands in the truth.
Today, I am giving myself the space to share some of my story here, to share a few more of the pieces of the last year that have made it the most difficult one of my life. No drama. Just truth. As I sit in the quiet and listen, it feels like sharing these pieces today and writing more over time is part of the healing that is to come. I feel moved to gently say that I am not seeking advice about where I am nor do I want to invite you to worry about me, as this post is just a part of what makes up the woman writing these words. This woman also spent a good part of today singing and listening to her daughter's laughter and brainstorming and creating talismans to send out into the world. This woman who is me spends much of each day gathering up the beauty that makes up this life. I spend a lot of time sifting through the realness to find the light and the joy. But I also know we must look at the truth and open our hearts to this truth.
Sharing these truths, being willing to look at the cracks and broken places, is how we heal. I believe this. And I believe that we can have the best intentions in our desires to help someone, but in doing so, we sometimes don’t realize that they are not seeking our help. Or sometimes what seems like help is really a desire to fix. Fixing and helping are not the same. I know this because I have been guilty of being a “fixer.” I know this because in the past year people have tried to fix when we needed love. The last few months have taught me the beauty that can be found in simply just showing up and shining your light when you see someone else is walking through a bit of darkness (we all walk through a bit of darkness). I want to write more about this soon…the idea of just showing up and being open to what a person most needs (and saying the words “what do you need?”) instead of believing there is something to fix. (Sometimes broken places do not need fixing.)
Thank you for catching these pieces of me and shining your light in this world…