I am so happy to be able to express myself on a daily basis on topics that I feel strongly about. I feel blessed to be able to stand tall, loud, and proud of my beliefs, views, opinions, and experiences. I also am grateful to feel happy when others have their own feelings, even if they are opposite of my own.
Yesterday was Mother’s Day, and what caught my eye were people that were openly sharing their own personal experience with this Hallmark Holiday. I also feel we should be celebrated every day as mothers, wives, fathers, people! Even in the work that we do, it is so important to have appreciation, recognition, and acknowledgement. A fellow birth worker wrote some powerful words, and I wanted to pass it on.
Today on this mother’s day I renounce self-imposed censorship.
CW: babies sometimes die, medical students dissect cadavers in gross anatomy lab, people get post-op infections. I don’t know how else to give a content warning.
Seven and a half years ago I was six months pregnant and gave birth to my daughter who had died inside of me. I would never give back this experience if I could. Giving birth to her initiated me more deeply into myself than anything else ever could. I held death inside of me, I smelled it and touched it and I became a different kind of 23 year old. I integrated the reality that we are mortal and contingent and do not have control over how long we are here for and I figured out a way to live with this conscious awareness, because the only way was through. Everything, everything I do in my life is drawn from this place. When people ask me how I ended up studying and teaching narrative medicine, or why I became a doula, or what drew me to become a somatic perinatal psychology practitioner, I want to say the plain truth: I gave birth to death and I figured out how to keep living. Instead I say something else, less direct, about writing and health, about the kind of family I come from. In graduate school I brought an essay to class by Eve Ensler in which she writes about her abscessed post-op infection. One of my classmates was horrified that I made everyone read this piece. I was shocked. I thought, if abscessed post-op infections are happening in the world, let’s talk about them! A few months ago I went to a lecture on narrative medicine, and at the end of the talk a first year medical student raised her hand and said, with her voice shaking, that she didn’t want to humanize the cadaver in gross anatomy, that she couldn’t take all the skin off of his body and dissect his organs with the awareness that the cadaver was a person, with a life and a family. I wanted go and sit next to her, to hold her hand. I wanted to tell her, “Yes, you can.” I wanted to tell her that with support, you can actually face into the rawness of that truth – that here is this person who had a life and family and here is their open body before you, that you are cutting into, to learn. I wish I could go back to my classmate in graduate school and hold her hand, and ask her about her life, and listen. Because really, when we are horrified by something it is not because the thing is gross, it is because it touches on something within ourselves that feels unbearable. I am part of what my friend calls the dead baby club, and another friend calls the nightmare club. We are not afraid. When I meet other people in the club, I no longer feel alone. I want to renounce my self-censorship. I want to start and keep telling it in the plain truth. This, this ability to face and listen and be with, is the greatest gift, and I am forever in love with and in awe of and so grateful to my daughter for the gift of this. Her death was, at the time, the most devastating and unbearable thing that could have happened to me. And it happened. The world broke open, my body broke open, my heart broke open. And I did not die. I kept breathing, and I kept walking, through the canyon, and I took notes. My daughter, through her experience of life and death inside of me, mandated me with the responsibility to offer this embodied knowledge, that the more we face into what scares us, what is gross or terrifying or way too intimate, and integrate that in our beings, hold it in the same light as the rest of our lives, then we are free, then we can be with what is, no matter what it is. And I feel committed to supporting people in contacting those places that feel vulnerable, that feel human and bodily and mysterious and unknown and silenced and invisible and accompanying people in a way that supports them to find their own integration of our inherent mortality, because really then there is so much life to enjoy, so much love to give and receive, so much good to work for. Here, now on mother’s day evening, I am loving up all the parents whose parenthood is less visible. All the parents whose babies have died, all the dads who gave birth, all the parents who never gave birth, all the aunties who love and protect and care for their nieces and nephews, all the midwives who dedicate their lives to catching babies gently. And I thank my parents for giving birth to me with strong and clear intention, and my own daughter who initiated me to fulfill it.
We all have different opinions on politics, world affairs, and day to day life. It’s OK to have my feelings, and it’s OK to have YOUR feelings.
I always had an issue with the word Caucasian to describe white people. My father who is not Anglo-Saxon or white in any sense of the word, was born in the Caucasus Mountains in Grozny, Chechnya, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caucasus_Mountains. We are Jewish, and in the Former Soviet Union it said Jewish on our Passport as a nationality.