This urgency to give voice. A story that demands to be told. In spite of fear, in spite of taboo, in spite of expectations and rationality and questions. In spite of it all.
A story whose time has come. Whose story. Because it has a life of its own. It breathes. It carries memory. It wrestles to see light.
And when it does, when voice casts light on darkness, it transforms. Transcends. Becomes something all together new. Takes flight with wings.
We tell ourselves that this longing goes against all rational thought. We struggle to state what is. Our genes carry memory. Of a time not that long ago (even now, yes) where truth was met with sword. Where life depended on keeping secrets.
I am in a bus. We are nearing the place that is in the snowy hill; it is beautiful out. I look up and see these huge white cranes, morphing, dancing in the sky. I point and tell everyone but nobody seems to see them.
The second dream quickly followed the first:
I am pregnant. My mom is with me. I start to have contractions and tell her I want to give birth at home….In the end I realize I am only three months along and I am not giving birth, and yet it is like I am, which confuses me. My mom was so willing to help and was ready to be a midwife and a doula for me.At the end dream I talk about making sure I have pads that are sanitary, whatever that means.
The dreams initially confused me. On the one hand both felt joyful on some level. In particular, the dream with mom was so vivid that she seemed alive and fully present by my side. But the dreams also left me unsettled.
Now I know why.
The dreams foretold my miscarriage.
This pregnancy felt surreal from the beginning. After unsuccessfully trying to conceive for over a year I decided to begin acupuncture treatments for infertility. Within two months of treatments I suddenly found myself pregnant. I was elated but also a bit stunned. Could it be this easy?
The pregnancy came easily but physically didn’t feel right. The first few weeks were punctuated by spotting and occasional bleeding. Then, at seven weeks I ended up in the ER with bleeding. Late that night I found myself in a small dark room with an ultrasound tech. She found a heartbeat! But she also said the baby was measuring really small. Was I sure of the date of my last menstrual cycle? I was. Although I was skeptical that I had the dates wrong, I didn’t think much of it.
I was sent home with good news—good blood test results and a good ultrasound, albeit a due date that was later than I thought.
Not even a week later I had the two dreams. And then suddenly, no dreams. No dreams about baby. No dreams about motherhood. I felt uneasy. Why was I so full of energy? It shouldn’t be this easy, should it? I mentioned this to my therapist when I saw her. I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. She tells me that the other shoe doesn’t always drop.
Except when it does.
Several days ago I sat in another dark ultrasound room. My husband chatted with the tech as I watched the screen, noting the tech pause and click, pause and click, silently enlarging images. And I knew. I saw the tiny, curled still image and I knew there was no heartbeat.
The technician clasped my hand.
“I’m so sorry honey. It looks like the baby stopped growing about two weeks ago.”
Two weeks ago, when I had my dreams.
The crane dream, so beautiful. Could it symbolize my child being released from my womb, entering the spirit realm? (Come to find out, in many traditions cranes symbolize travel between realms and are thought to be carriers of souls.)
And then the dream with my mother. Alive by my side as a midwife and doula. Supporting me and guiding me through the miscarriage. The need for “sanitation” now clear—sanitary pads as I began to lose the pregnancy.
Immediately after the dreams I felt a deep malaise that I now recognize as sadness from the pregnancy loss. This “knowing” before consciously knowing about the miscarriage has helped me cope. It feels like I have already processed the loss on some level, because I have.
I decided to experience the miscarriage naturally rather than undergo a procedure, but I suppose my dream already predicted that. As I lose tissue and blood, I feel my mom’s spirit by my side as midwife and doula and I find solace in the image of my tiny baby’s spirit dancing in the sky with the cranes. The dreams have healed me and made this dark passage a little less difficult than it could have been.
The last few weeks I’ve found myself fantasizing about what it would be like to have my mom around. I doubt this is healthy, but it goes like this: I envision her showing up and going to work. She would get my kitchen really clean—sparkling, lemon-fresh clean. She would brush my daughter’s hair, patiently untangling it. She would spoil her only granddaughter with a special Valentine’s Day dress (something that I wouldn’t have the energy or time to consider buying). Even though I would say to her, mom you shouldn’t have, she would reply, That is what grandmothers are for.
She would treat me to lunch, just the two of us. She would spoil me by footing the bill for a pretty new dress or shirt, just because. I would say, you don’t need to do this. And she would reply, I know, but I want to. And she would mean it.
Lovely as this dream is, it is not reality.
I’ve been lonely for family lately. In addition to my mom being gone, the rest of my alive-and-well-family feels really far away. There is a literal distance of over 1,000 miles. Sometimes that is not a big deal. We Facetime, we talk, and we see each other pretty frequently despite the distance. But it doesn’t replace having grandma down the road. Our far-away family can’t swoop in to babysit if an unexpected emergency comes up.
We know that we need a nearby, substitute family. We are working hard to build our village. Our list of sitters is slowly growing and we are forcing ourselves to forge connections with as many families and friends in our neighborhood as we can.
I see this community as providing patches to a well-loved quilt that currently has some holes in it.
Even though I might not like the fact that big, important pieces are missing from my quilt, it doesn’t mean I can’t try to patch it up, to blend old with new.
To be certain, there is no patch or series of patches that will repair the empty space that was held by my mother. That is not possible. I see the new patches to the old quilt as being like those in a crazy quilt. You know, those folk-art type quilts that are sewn together with irregular shapes and sizes and using unique patterns and materials. (Hey, the name fits too. All families are a little crazy, right?!)
I’ve always liked the eclectic look of crazy quilts. There is beauty in its imperfection.
Which is not to say that I always fully embrace the new. Fantasies about my mom come from a place of resentment. For the fact that there are holes in the fabric of my family. For the fact that clinging to my old quilt just doesn’t work anymore.
The problem is that fantasies never accurately reflect what was or what could have been.
Let’s be honest: If my mom were alive and well, reality would look a little different than the fantasy I described. For one thing, I’d likely be frantically cleaning before she arrived to my house (in order to save face, of course). And while yes, my mom would comb my daughter’s hair, she would likely also raise my ire by asking, “Don’t you ever comb this rat’s nest?!”
While it is very likely we would have lunch just the two of us, it’s also likely that when she would lean over to pass me the bread she would also tuck my hair behind my ear, commenting for the fifteenth-thousandth time that I should “Just pull my hair back so everyone can see my eyes!”
Imagining this revised scene makes me laugh and helps to slay some of the victim-hood.
It reminds me that there is no perfect quilt. Well-loved quilts always have a few frays.
Last night I found this list tucked away in my journal:
It took me a moment to realize what I was looking at. Then I remembered it was from a journaling workshop I participated in before Christmas.
The question that was asked on the call was:
What is essential to your self-care?
Ah, yes. The universe is wise. I wrote that list two months ago not knowing I would need to see it again yesterday. And there it was, tucked away in my journal. An unwrapped fortune written for my future-self, by my past-self.
I needed this self-care reminder today because the last several weeks have been hard. I’ll spare the details right now, but anyone who runs a household that includes a small child plus two parents who work full-time will understand how easily routines can be thrown into disarray by illness and other unexpected events. Why, even my last blog post was about this exact issue.
Which brings me back to the list of essentials.
What is essential to your self-care?
I don’t easily abandon my writing time, and I certainly had good reason for doing it the last few weeks. (Namely, the first item on the list: SLEEP). But as days dragged on to weeks, it became clear to me that sleep alone is not enough for my self-care.
Why is that the case? Writing is not a mere joy (though it often is) but more like the anchor that keeps me grounded. I’ll defer to Flannery O’Connor who said it best:
“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” – Flannery O’Connor
Yes Flannery, exactly! Without my time for writing I don’t have a full grasp on all the thoughts rattling around in my head. I get twitchy. Off balance.
This morning, I woke up before everyone else and I sat down and wrote. It felt so good. And, it doesn’t hurt that writing time is also time alone with myself, the third item on my list.
Just call it the introvert’s guide to self-care: sleep, writing, and time alone.
(I’m a blast at parties! No, really—as long as they are small intimate affairs where I don’t have to talk to strangers.)
What’s on your self-care essential list, friends and fellow bloggers? Something tells me your list might include writing-time, too.