This has been a year of great growth for me. I dived into the Enneagram and learned so much about myself through identifying myself as a type 1. I walked through the 12 steps of AA with my community. I studied Richard Rohr’s book Immortal Diamond: The Search for Our True Self with a dear friend, unpacking the ideas of the true self vs. the ego, transcending morality and duality.
In yoga I practiced over and over uniting mind, body, and breath. This year has been full of learning to look within and sit with my experience. I desire to lead others into wholeness and freedom as they see and accept themselves for who they are. This is the process: we seek truth and accept what we find. Only when we allow ourselves to see does the healing process begin. Pain is inherent to the journey, but wholeness is a worthy goal.
I learned recently through my yoga practice that I feel betrayed by my body.
We are in the season of advent. It’s the beginning of the liturgical year in Orthodox Christianity. Advent is a season of waiting. The liturgical year starts with an unexpected pregnancy; we wait for the arrival of Jesus. It starts with a birth story that falls dramatically short of the ideal. Growing up as an Evangelical Christian, we didn’t talk very much about Mary, but I find myself identifying strongly with her in this season. Her soul was pierced for the love of her child—something every mother can identify with.
When I was pregnant, I read book after book on natural childbirth. They went on about how women have given birth since the beginning of time and how our bodies were designed to give birth. Birth is empowering, they said. Don’t let any doctor take that experience away from you, they said. Any medical intervention is robbing you of joy, they said.
And then, after two days of natural labor at home and eight hours in the hospital, I was confronted with the reality that despite my best efforts and the fact that I had done everything I could, I would be having a c-section. I have never felt less empowered, less in control, less proud than in that moment. My body had betrayed me.
If you know me in real life and are shocked or sad that I never talked to you about this, I’m sorry. I haven’t been able to talk about this because of the deep shame.There was a deep sense of failure—feelings of being less than other women who have successfully had the birth that they dreamed of. I haven’t known how to talk about this, but I’m open and ready to talk about it now.
In life, we have our ideals, and then reality often slaps us in the face. This season has taught me most of all that I cannot let the fact that I’m not having the experience I wanted rob me of the experience I am having.
I felt my body betray me again when I had a miscarriage nine days before my 28th birthday. Miscarriage is so common, and, in fact, out of the ten women that I’m closest to in the world, half of them have experienced miscarriage. My miscarriage felt confusing. I had a seven-month-old baby that I had just sleep-trained. The light at the end of the tunnel was coming closer. And then I found myself crying with that positive pregnancy test in my hands. I was angry and sad and not ready. I was relieved that the conversations my husband and I had constantly about timing of our next child would cease. I wondered—who will this baby be? I felt excitement—my children will grow up so close to one another. I went to the first appointment, and there was no heartbeat. I went back two weeks later and still, no heartbeat. I was devastated, but it also felt something like a weight lifted and I felt guilty. I cancelled my birthday party that year and felt nauseous and shell-shocked for months.
And now. Betrayal comes on like a monthly rhythm as I treat my body well and give it exercise and vitamins and play my part. Yet infertility plagues me and each month reminds me that my body isn’t doing what it’s meant to do. Lack of control is my constant lesson.
All I can do in this season is stay faithful to hope. I can name the lies, set them free, and replace them with truth. I can weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice. I can set boundaries that help me stay healthy. I can treat my body kindly and speak affirming words over myself. I can offer solidarity to other women. I can stay very present with my son and husband and try to love them well and be loved by them. I can allow myself and others to hold conflicting truths in tension. This season is excruciating and joyful and everything in between, and there is richness in the experience that I am having.
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