Creative people sacrifice a great deal of themselves for their craft. It takes a lot of energy and confidence to take an idea, put your force of will behind it, give it lift, give it traction, and make it a reality. And sometimes we don’t have the freedom to tell our stories as we see fit. After all, we aren’t the only characters in our tales — there were other people there, too. Perhaps the artist doesn’t feel the need for self-preservation, but their loved ones do. How will they feel about their story being told alongside yours? I’ve struggled with this often.
We want to fight against the institution of stigma, but have to confront that the wardens of that institution are often those people who profess to love us the most: mothers, fathers, siblings, or friends. Perhaps their unconditional love and support doesn’t cover our attempts to feed our souls through our creativity. To surrender ourselves to living in silence or conducting part of our journey in secret protects their feelings, but also relegates us to living a half-life, unactualized and bifurcated by fear: truth on one side, peace-keeping on the other.
It’s important to recognize just how much power you give to others and if they are using it responsibly. There are those emotional tyrants who would rather you continue to live on the fringes, just so they can save face. They have robbed you of the rights to your own story, merely because they played a part in it and are ashamed of their conduct. And because you are caring, self-sacrificing, and willing, you will allow them to dictate how you live your life and what stories you will tell.
I have been in some abusive relationships. The militant part of me has welled up with righteous anger and the need to strike back, but I have always held myself back. I don’t want to hurt or offend with my writing — I write to feed my soul, and no nourishment is found in words that harm. But it’s more than that — I hold back because my love for these tyrants, regardless of their warped thinking, asks me to be kind. Asks me to put their need for under-rug-swept before my need for transparency. I think that most victims of emotional abuse, even physical abuse, face a similar quandary: how to do free yourself from the stigma of illness and abuse when doing so would harm your abuser, whom you love?
If I were unafraid, what stories would I tell?
All of them.
The quote pictured above was taken from author, Rachel Thompson, from a Facebook status made in June 2014. I invite you to check out more from Rachel here and here.
I guess you hear it all the time, but until you’re neck-deep in motherhood you never quite realize how irrelevant all of your plans are. I have daydreamed about becoming a mom since I was a teenager — I knew what names I liked, what kind of clothes I wanted them to wear, how I was going to care for them. I had visions of sweet, cherubic faces dancing in my dreams like proverbial sugarplums. Courtesy of college family resources and psychology courses, I knew how to facilitate every stage of their development. I had every intention of a doing prenatal yoga, undergoing natural childbirth, being an unapologetic breast-feeder. And then I got pregnant and realized that life doesn’t give a shit about my plans.
I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I almost lost the pregnancy. Unbeknownst to me, I was 6 weeks pregnant when a gush of blood signaled that something was very wrong. In the emergency room, they confirmed I was pregnant, then told me not to get my hopes up: “At this point, if your body is going to spontaneously abort the pregnancy, there’s nothing we can do about it.” So we went home and prayed. We prayed for three straight weeks until I went to first ultrasound and saw the heartbeat. Finally, I was able to breathe again — my body hadn’t betrayed us and killed our baby.
The rest of my pregnancy was smooth sailing, though not entirely what I had expected. I was way more tired, my body under way more strain, than I had been prepared for. Forget about yoga, walking the dog, or getting up off the couch — I’m willing to go from bed, to work, and back to my sofa, and there’s nothing you can do to convince me otherwise! Forget the well-rounded pregnancy diet, too. If it smells good, I’m going to eat it, and I can’t be held responsible if animal proteins aren’t on that list.
It turned out okay though. We made it to November without incident, my OBGYN complimenting me on being the easiest patient on his roster. Having read about the correlations between epidural use and increased likelihood of complications leading to Caesarian section, I was hoping to experience natural childbirth. I read everything I could get my hands on, interviewed friends, developed a birth plan with my doctor, and practiced breathing exercises. I drafted my friend as a doula. We stocked up on calming essential oils and packed my bag to allow for a quick departure to the hospital. As we approached my due date on November 9th, I felt we were pretty well prepared for the inevitable. Baby had been locked and loaded since the end of October and all signs pointed to a timely delivery. I did everything the Big Book tells you to do in order to help things along: had sex, walked around the neighborhood, exercised on one of those gigantic balls. Short of puncturing my own water bag with a knitting needle, I tried everything. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be: at two weeks past my due date, we threw in the towel and acquiesced to an induction by Pitocin drip.
You know what happens when you go into labor under Pitocin?
Well, first of all, your contractions tend to be twice as long and a million times as intense as those caused by the natural labor-inducing horomone, Oxytocin. Try managing six hours of teeth-gritting, horrifyingly protracted spasms in your gut — I couldn’t do it, so I opted for the epidural. It made the pain go away, but not the long, arduous contractions that were squeezing my baby every three minutes. Her heart rate dropped from 120 beats-per-minute down to 60. Turns out my daughter couldn’t handle the Pitocin, either.
I bet you can guess what happened.
Yeah, that’s me, crying tears of, “Oh my God, what the fuck? One moment I was in the L&D room and the next I was rushed into surgery, holy crap, they’re cutting me open.” The whole time I lay strapped to the surgical table, arms spread out like Jesus on the cross, I kept thinking, “Ok. Well, so I didn’t get to labor the way I wanted. And now my delivery is going to be very different from what I had planned. But she’ll be here soon. And then we’ll cuddle and do the skin-to-skin thing that everyone’s always going on about, and everything will be fine.” Even after Moira was born, though, things went a little off-plan: she spent the night in the NICU, and I spent in the night in recovery. Once we were reunited, we had to learn how to breastfeed, and that didn’t come easily either. As we struggled, Moira and I, to hit our stride, those last visions I had of myself as Earth-Mother Incarnate went out the window. This was the big leagues. It was about survival, by any means necessary.
And it continues to be. I’m definitely not a crunchy-granola kind of hippie earth-mother I thought I’d be. Despite what I learned in FAM-R or Childhood Psychology, I don’t actually manage to pick her up every time she cries. There are even times when I leave the room and make her fend for herself while I run to the bathroom to pee (gasp!). Now, we’re on to solid foods — will I manage to make everything from scratch and eschew store-bought baby food? Only time will tell. I still have moments of panic when my plans go awry, but then there are certain things I can’t bring myself to get huffy over. It’s just much, much easier to go with the flow. From conception, to gestation, to delivery and beyond, nothing happened quite the way I had intended it to. I think I’ve made my peace with that.