The Pedigree

I’ve been thinking about the women on the family tree, their circles blackened and crossed out. Elizabeth Breast, 31. Elizabeth’s cousin (name unknown): Breast, 30s. Elizabeth’s cousin (also name unknown): Breast, 30s. Diane, Breast, 44. Brain mets. 46. 

Circles signify women, and blackened circles signify cancer. Lines through them signify death.

I’ve been thinking about how we explain and classify these early deaths of four women in my family.

THE H1686R VARIANT HAS BEEN RECLASSIFIED TO ‘SUSPECTED DELETERIOUS’, MEANING IT IS SUSPECTED TO BE A SIGNIFICANT MUTATION AND IS LIKELY THE CAUSE OF THE BREAST CANCER IN DIANE’S FAMILY.

Letter to my father from Barbara Ann Karmanos Center Institute, Dated May 7, 2015, informing of newfound information on my late mother’s BRCA1 gene mutation known as H1686R.

I’ve been thinking about how names on a chart and genetic abnormalities deny a simple truth: cancer over and over again struck the symbol of feminine nurturing and sustenance–the breasts of young mothers–in my maternal lineage. 

I’ve been thinking about the assault on women’s bodies–and male bodies too. To paraphrase Eve Ensler, how patriarchy kills men in their hearts…and women in their breasts. Hearts and breasts. 

Photo of my grandmother Elizabeth

Certainly I’ve been thinking about my late mom (Diane), and the grandmother I never met (Elizabeth), and her cousins (names unknown) on the genetic chart, called a pedigree. I’ve been thinking about other women too.  Debby and Angela, two women I knew and admired, both not much older than myself, who died recently of breast cancer. Circles blackened and crossed out.

I’ve been thinking about the assault on our bodies and our land. Blackened and crossed.

I’ve been thinking about how our vitality as women and mothers is wrapped in the vitality of the earth. That waiting any longer to confront this truth is a pathology.

We can no longer deny the destiny that is ours by becoming women who wait–waiting to love, waiting to speak, waiting to act. This is not patience, but pathology. We are sensual, sexual beings, intrinsically bound to both Heaven and Earth, our bodies a hologram. In our withholding of power, we abrogate power, and that creates war. 

TERRY TEMPEST WILLIAMS, When Women Were Birds

Advertisements

Five Things Nobody Tells You About Miscarriage

I know what you are thinking: a listicle about miscarriage?  Yes. Because if you are going to write a dark humor piece on miscarriage, it pretty much demands a listicle format.

One in three pregnancies folks. And nobody talks about it. Ready for some truth-telling?

Quick disclaimer: I ended up not having a medical intervention so my experience might be a little different than those who do have a procedure.  You may now continue with the saddest post ever.

  1. You will suddenly be Chubby McChubbykins and have no clothes to wear and hell no you aren’t putting on those maternity pants.
  2. Whee, it is fun to shop at Target while having a miscarriage! Photo from Target.com

    You will literally be walking around Target while having a miscarriage. It turns out that if you don’t have a medical procedure you will instead experience the world’s longest, saddest period. Expelling the products of conception is process, not a single event. So, you will find yourself in Target, trying to determine the cheapest paper towels that retain that handy perforation feature, and it will hit you: Hello fellow shoppers, I am standing in Target while having a miscarriage. You might shed some tears. Let’s hope the lady next to you thinks you are just really torn-up over these paper towel prices. (See what I did there?)

  3. You have to take a freaking pregnancy test. To confirm that you are no longer pregnant. AS IF YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW. This is officially the worst pregnancy test you have ever taken.
  4. You can’t have sex for a while because you have to make sure your cervix is freaking closed. Trust me, this won’t be a problem. You won’t be ready for a trip to funky town for a while. Your body physiologically is like, whoa, what just happened. I was pregnant, now I’m not pregnant. I can’t keep up. In the meantime, I’ll just sit over here and knit while watching some funny cat videos. (Note: I did not actually knit while watching cat videos. But now that I write this, it sounds rather pleasant to my non-sexy-time self.)
  5. Your spouse will be ready for a trip to funky town way before you are. This one wrote itself, didn’t it?

For you mother-warriors who have experienced miscarriage, anything else you would add to the list?

(And to answer my husband’s question, no, my next post will not be “The five things nobody tells you about Genocide!” I’m pretty sure Buzzfeed already published that one.)