My body is an asshole.
It was all too eager to conceive and then it wouldn’t let my daughter out. Since we had the good fortune to be in this tiny window of human history when both of us wouldn’t die slowly and painfully in childbirth, we were saved by modern medicine.
Ten days after she was born via c-section, the left part of the incision opened, superficially. I had an open wound through all the layers of my skin on my abdomen which my husband or I had to “irrigate” and then stuff with cotton pads, twice a day, for months. We had a little box with all the tools: the squirt bottle filled with warm water, the long necked metal tweezers, the 2×2 surgical pads, the towels laid under me and kept in hand to wipe away the bloody water, the mirror I would hold between my knees so I could do it myself once I was able. And I thought that was bad.
Two and a half years later: It happily, easily conceived again. No problem. Except the baby died at 6 weeks gestation and my body waited another 5 weeks to let me know. Just to get those hopes up. I went to the ultrasound after we knew the baby was gone and I saw it inside there: a lima bean sized human. Curled up and dead, unbeleivable to me that it wouldn’t just keep growing or come back somehow. It’s likely there was something wrong with the baby, but I don’t deal in likely anymore, so I’m calling it inhospitable environment.
One year later: Conceived too early. I had a few more days before I would be in the ovulation window but that eager body, following it’s biology, performing the nearly impossible, mysterious and, yes, miraculous merger of sperm and egg, created our son. From two cells to four trillion cells in 9 months.
After the fear of the first 12 weeks, the “riskiest” time for most people, (“Don’t anyone get excited!”, I would say, “We have no guarantees this pregnancy will last.”), I began to relax and get excited and plan and purchase and make room. My body carried that baby like a pro. I certainly had more symptoms than with my daughter: swelling, numbness in my fingers, heartburn, but low blood pressure, normal weight gain, our baby kicking and moving and heart beating like he was ready for this world.
Water broke, early labor, active labor, transition, pushing, baby. It’s perhaps the most amazing feat the human body can preform and this time, seamless. No problem and also no warning. Imagine for a moment that your body tore open along some scar in your skin. The moment of rupture brought swiftly and acutely to your attention, the subsequent insult of further opening and then the throbbing of the open, bleeding wound. This is what happened inside me, except without all of that normal, expected communication. Not just skin but layers of think muscles, torn apart, bleeding out, killing my baby and not a word. Not a dipping heart rate, not some extra, extraordinary pain. Nothing.
7 weeks later: I wake up on blood stained sheets and rush to the phone to call the advice nurse. She says, “Fever?” No. “Increase in pain?” No. “Filling a pad every 15 minutes for an hour?” No. “Honey, I think you have your period.”
What. The. Fuck. Really, Body? You’re ready for this again? Should we give it another go? Roll those dice and see what happens. Just for fun.
This means I’ve ovulated since my baby was born and died, likely just 5 weeks later. In the midst of the deepest grief, the highest amount of stress in my life, my body didn’t skip a beat. What would it take, I wonder? How high would the cortisol level have to be for the pitutary to shut this thing down for a minute? How can I have such ease in creating and such utter disaster or narrowly averted disaster in delivering?
What about this situation calls for preparation, ovulation and shedding? There is no part of my being right now, not body, mind nor emotions, that could mother another child. I can hardly take care of the living child I have, I can hardly take care of myself. But it’s ready again. And if history is any teacher, it’ll be ready again in 16-19 days from now. That will be 9 weeks postpartum, 9 weeks postmortem.
My body is a machine: Daily suffering several episodes of crying, nausea, dull headache, blood that feels toxic from stress hormones, waves of anxiety, and the heaviness of depression. And yet, it just keeps going, uninterrupted, driven by the physiological mandate to reproduce. No matter what carnage lays in it’s wake.
My body is that asshole who taunts and cajoles you into doing the very thing you know you should not do. That asshole that makes the whole thing sound so easy and fun and amazing. That asshole that you curse later that you never should have listened to, that you wish you never even met. Assuming you survive.
My body is an asshole. It’s remnants of needing someone, something to blame, to be at fault, when there isn’t. But I’m still mad at it. I didn’t know how mad until I start to move again.
After my baby died, I got several “mandates”. A voice inside told me what I needed to do. One of them was return to my Nia practice. I healed my depression dancing and moving in a class of women who were in their bodies, sensing their bodies, experiencing the joy of having a body to move and shake and shimmy and twirl. I started taking these classes and started crying through them. No thoughts, no story, just tears and so began my journey from daily misery to daily contentment, happiness even.
So I’m back. Back in the very same room, the very same teacher, the very same practice 12 years later. Back to heal this new aching wound, to find my center, to still the mind and just be in the body. Except that this body is impossible to be in, uninhabitable. The stress hormones released by the grief are a million ants crawling through my veins. My shoulders and neck continually ball up into tight, aching knots no matter how many massages, hot baths, and Tiger Balm patches I use. I cannot stand to be in this body where everything has become uncomfortable, where I literally want to crawl out of my skin. I want out and I’m stuck.
I’m stuck here, laying on the bamboo floor, in this asshole body. This broken body that failed me and killed my baby. I am so angry at this body that I’m stuck in. I am angry that it is all ready to have a newborn: that it gained 40 pounds during the pregnancy, that it has stored up fat and nutrients and released hormones to literally keep another human alive with it’s milk. I hate that I have all of this weight on my bones. I hate that I don’t recognize myself and I don’t feel like myself in this body and it would all be fine if I had my baby. I hate that all of that energy, those calories, that effort is wasted and now I must go about the business of losing it. Shedding those pounds, chiseling out the body that is actually mine, that looks and feels like mine. The body that is still underneath this body that was made by my brilliant biology for Harvey. I can feel it, sense it, under this weight. It is strong and graceful. It moves without pain and with ease. It is balanced and aligned for the most part. It does not have these tight muscles, ligaments and tendons grown hard from grief and inactivity and atrophy. It responds the way I want it to when I ask it to. It doesn’t ache and throb at and all around the rupture site, deep inside my abdomen. It can lift it’s knee and kick it’s leg and step back in a deep lunge. And yet, it’s still the asshole body that failed me, that killed my baby, that is taking it’s sweet, sweet time to get better.
I move through the room during class and I cry again, just like I used to. I lay on the floor for the last 15 minutes and sob and sob as the cellular memory releases. I sob and sobas the people in the class get their things and go home. As I move, I remember, my cells remember. They remember the sensations of him pushing his feet into my ribs and elbowing my hip joint and pressing his head into the top of my cervix. They remember the sensation of bone against bone as he slipped into the birth canal. They remember the sensation of impossible stretching of swollen, red tissue as his boulder of a head waited there, just at the edge of this world, to be pushed out. They remember the limp, lifeless newborn that the ocular cells scanned and scanned and frantically scanned for any kind of movement, some response, maybe a reflex. They remembered his weight, how the muscles cells got tired and the nerve cells stopped firing in my forearm from sitting and holding him in the same position for hours and hours. He was not easily moved for all the tubes and wires protruding from his swollen little body, so the body started to give up under him, the light weight of his tiny head. They remembered the physiological ache, first for my baby, and then for a short time, any baby to hold and feed and respond to. They remembered how that slowly transformed into the emotional ache, how those same cells became flooded with the chemicals of grief and returned to the ache for my baby, the one that looked like my first baby, the one whose genes were my genes and my husband’s genes, who called to us at that very atomic level. As I moved my body, it remembered. It told me the story again, this time with the opportunity to release it. And I did. I sobbed and I sobbed and I sobbed. But it’s not done with me. There is more in there to remember, to release, to live with.
I’ll keep going. I’ll keep moving and sobbing and remembering. I’ll keep trying to heal this body. But partly it will be out of spite. It will be to regain control. To feel that I am not at the whim of this faulty body that failed me, that killed my baby, that will fail me again at some point, no doubt, and kill me, too.