I’ve had a lot of weird energy around my writing life lately… A tension that’s builiding, and now that I’ve noticed it, I can’t un-notice it.
It’s a long story for another day, but the short version is that all the areas of my life that feel the most alive right now, the most transformative, the most exciting, all the parts that I REALLY want to connect with you over, happen to be the areas of my life that feel too intimate to share online.
Either I hold them too close, they are just a little too dear, or maybe just simply too tender to discuss in real time.
Anyway, I’m not sure what to do with that.
There is no nugget of wisdom here, unless you comment back with one, which I fully hope you do. So I guess I’ll just sit with that for now, and hold space for it.
In the meantime?
I’ve been writing letters to my Body.
It is cracking me open.
Guess I should hold space for that too…
I never thought I was a person who carried trauma in her body.
But then again, as women, I think it might be more rare NOT to?
I mean, I’m just NOW beginning to process (14 & 11 years later) the very real and un-acknowledged trauma my Body went through during both of the dangerous and rushed deliveries we survived together.
Now, listen, does EVERY woman who’s ever given birth feel like a freaking warrior? And does she then perpetually feel the need to talk about it forever and ever, as if it is a once in a lifetime story, every time someone mentions childbirth?
And here’s why:
I don’t care how your baby came into the world, odds are it was traumatic on some level.
It is designed to be.
Beautiful? Yes. Miraculous? Yes. Pure magic? Yes. Also? It is TRAUMATIC, and not just for our bodies.
This is the nature of childbirth. I know I am not special in this way.
However, I did have some outlying circumstances that I never allowed myself to really grieve or fully process until now. Why now? Why does this even matter all these years later?
Because the body always remembers.
She knows things, often before our minds register them. She is by far the more clever of us, you see. The wiser, too.
I’ve had seemingly “random” floods of tears (at very inopportune moments, too, if you must know) spring to the surface lately, and instead of feeling embarrassed by them or foolish for having them, this time I am choosing a gentle curiosity instead.
I am asking my Body what she is trying to tell me, because the tears? They are only one of the ways she’s been trying to get my attention lately. More on that later
I remember a few years ago, reading a piece by the lovely Sarah Bessey, and she was talking about how she’d had her own traumatic experience with delivering one of her babies IN A PARKING GARAGE, and how wild and crazy that was, but how she’d always kind of glossed over it with humor.
But how there was a real trauma under there. How tender it felt. How valuable it is to gently press down on that pain and listen to what it has to say.
The tears sprang to the surface then, when I read her words, and they continue to do so now, whenever a certain emotion or sensation is triggered in my body in a way that brings me back to those moments in the delivery room, or more pointedly, to that place within myself.
It was the most vulnerable, the most afraid, and the most in pain I’d ever been and in those moments, and even more so in the years that followed, I did not partner with my Body. Not in the way I desperately wish I would have.
But sometimes we just don’t know what we don’t know, ya know?
Look, I am a REAL SLOW PROCESSOR. It took me a while to see this. A long while. But I’m finally allowing myself to remember.
How terrified I was. How it was so different than in the movies. There was no screaming or writhing or cursing. There was no energy for that. There were only gutteral noises and whimpers, that I’d later find out my loved ones in the waiting room mistook for the baby’s cry.
I hadn’t gotten the epidural I’d planned on. In fact, we’d barely bade it to the hospital in time, and when we did, they didn’t even have time to throw an aspirin at me. The baby was under stress, I was already fully dilated, there was no time. For anything.
I remember Dr. Binette looking squarely at me from over the rim of his glasses, he said (in a strangely comforting stern voice), “Amber. There is no more time. This baby needs to come out NOW. You’re going to push and I’m going to pull and we are going to do this, okay?” I glazed over, not really hearing him, while my eyes focused in on the spot near his Adam’s apple, where his bowtie usually was.
It was then the whimpering started. You see, I’d made no back up plan for myself. The pain meds WERE the plan.
At every doctors visit for 9 months I’d made a big deal about the epidural. At every appointment for 9 months my sweet + spicy doctor would straighten his bowtie, chuckle, and say, “Amber. You’ll get the epidural. See? Its on the chart. Everyone gets the epidural. Its on the chart.”
He’d tap the chart.
But then I didn’t get the epidural, EVEN THOUGH IT WAS RIGHT THERE ON THE CHART, BARB! Apparently, once you cross a certain threshold of dilation, the “chart” doesn’t apply much. It’s more of proper physics at that point.
I was naked and on all fours. I forget why I had to be, but I remember how everything in my body grated against that. It wasn’t supposed to be like THIS, was it? I couldn’t think clearly. I wanted so badly to lie down. For them to look away. To be anywhere but in my body in this moment.
I was just a freaked out 25 year old kid as the centerpiece in a room full of extra doctors and nurses- all watching, looking, all of them just observing me like that, and I remember how I was so shattered in that moment and I didn’t even know it.
As a pastors kid who had been raised to protect her dignity and her modesty, the irony was not lost on me, even in that dire moment, that this thing I had fostered and protected my whole life was being suddenly being stripped away from me in a heinous way.
But… was it heinous? Was I allowed to feel that?
I was naked and all on all fours. I was heaving and trembling. I was panicked and delirious and exposed. Here I was on display in this first test of motherhood, and I was failing. I was in a room full of strangers and they were all watching. They had clipboards. It was all very clinical, you see.
Listen, my relationship to my body was not the thing I was worrying about in that moment, not at all. But it turns out, it was precisely the thing that would silently haunt me for the next decade, you know, give or take a few years.
I mean, there I was, supposed to be doing this thing that I had never done before (you know, giving birth, NBD) (except VBD, barb! it’s a VERY BIG DEAL!) and truth be told, I didn’t know how to do it, and to be honest it really wasn’t going great. It was going really really badly, actually, and in that moment I was the most afraid I’d ever been.
I saw a flash of metal between my legs and suddenly there was a second of relief, or maybe a half of a second. Then it registered. He’d cut me open. But I couldn’t let myself think about that because now he was reaching for another tool, one to help pull her out.
There was a palpable sense of urgency in the room.
I thought, this baby might really die. And how I couldn’t live with that.
In that moment, I did not yet know how to find that place inside of myself- that place of inner quiet and fortitude- the place you have to sink down to in (and after) moments of trauma, and how no one can go there with you.
You have to go alone, and it is so scary the first time you find yourself there.
I kept trying to run from that place inside myself. I kept trying to get away from the pain and the fear.
I remember the second time how it seemed so different but it felt the same. The baby was struggling, we needed to get him out. How my body had an allergic reaction to the emergency C section meds… how my jaw clamped shut and my skin turned gray/blue and I couldn’t speak at all or stop my body from violently shaking. How the doctors had to ask Nate to help push my shoulders down on the surgery table because I was shaking so badly they thought it would make a safe incision impossible.
How everything went immediately blurry then. It got quiet and dark. I was fighting for awareness, but my body was in another place and I was separate from it. We fell through some vortex on that table, my Body and I. Nothing was familiar to us again for a very long time.
I remember how shattered I was in that moment, too, and how again, I didn’t even realize it.
I allow myself to remember those next moments too, when I did finally wake up – I couldn’t hear the baby cry, and something was wrong. I knew that. Something was very wrong.
I tried to stay there in that room, in my body, awake on that table.
I remember how I couldn’t, and how for years I carried a tiny slice of shame about that.
I couldn’t stay present. Not when my body and my new baby needed me most.
I remember how helpless I felt. How all I could see was the stars at the edge of my vision and the tears running down my husbands face positioned above me. How all I could hear were the hushed and strained whispers of the staff, and all I could feel was the snap of a tether loosened somewhere inside myself. It made a small, clean sound. Like the snapping of a flower stem.
How we finally heard him cry, and then it was all supposed to be “okay”, but I knew. I knew in my Body it still wasn’t okay yet.
And how that feeling of knowing in my Body that something “isn’t okay” has low-key stayed with me for over a decade.
How every time I get a really bad anxiety attack now, my jaw clamps shut just it like did back then in that room on the metal table, and my breath catches, and I feel trapped in my body again… and any words get trapped inside my clenched jaw and chattering teeth.
The words are always the first thing to go in extreme anxiety attacks, probably because they are the most important to me. How frustrating that is!
I never thought I was a person who carried trauma in my body.
I was wrong.