The Global Sisterhood Summit Part 1
“It’s just so damned basic, THAT’S why it’s hard to iterate.”
I was musing to my husband as I attempted to compose an e-mail to my yoga teacher training colleagues. I was on my way to Vancouver for the first known formal gathering of women who wanted children but couldn’t have them and desired to share why I was not going to be in yoga teacher training attendance that weekend. But, like all other communications these days it was proving to be a challenge. First and foremost, when I’m moved to write something, I trust my instincts. Implicitly. I trust what comes up and out into the keyboard which is not a shabby foundation by any measure. But given the layers, delicacies and angles involved, I also needed to sit back and examine my writing. Because that someone who had endured perpetual trauma and loss would need to be around those who get it is like so DUH in my world. However I am slowly coming to accept the shady abyss that lies between what is obvious to me and what is obvious to everyone else. Some people may be able to perceive the need, others may not. Fewer will know how crucial it is to be in the presence of fellow survivors when you’re dealing with a loss that is societally unacknowledged. I don’t want to preach or talk down. If I say too much, I’ll lose them, if I say too little, I’ll fail to express the truth. I want to share, and I want to share in a way that’s accessible, which, when it comes to silenced experiences that bear stigma, is about as feasible as ordering the weather. Plus accessibility is not even my forte to begin with. I managed to somehow come up with something that felt right, and the response ended up being lovely and supportive.
But it got me thinking, if I had the leeway, how would I describe this thing, this thing we child free not by choicers are missing when we go out in the world? Do people give any thought as to how it would feel and be like to be constantly educating, justifying and explaining what has become your normal due to circumstances you didn’t ask for? To have your only other choice be to traverse down the road of silence and inauthenticity? To have to constantly assert yourself in conversation where your reality doesn’t exist in a society that has failed to make room for people like you? To have your normal go unrecognized and unaccepted? In spite of having become accepting, inviting even, of life’s tough emotions and less than ideal circumstances, I often wonder these days what this all does to a person. So how would I humbly attempt to describe this experience if I were to really let it fly? It would go something like this.
Consider this: You endure four years of perpetual trauma that entails one surgery, ten failed fertility treatments, countless draining and misleading holistic measures and endless failed natural cycles. All of this occurs at an out of pocket cost of $77,000 and affects EVERY SINGLE THING in your life – every relationship you have, your career, your wants, needs, likes and dislikes and even more weighty is the 180 degree shift in how you experience life and perceive the world around you. You are met with the end of having lost your children, realize that adoption is not possible, and, stripped of all control, you surrender to your higher knowledge that grief is to be experienced, not manipulated, so you make yourself available to the trip of grieving the loss of your children, parenthood and grandparenthood in one fell swoop. All while knowing that somewhere in this wretched and senseless equation you’re going to have to reinvent your life, AND that can only be done after single – handedly initiating your own resurrection.
So, you turn to your fellow humans for their presence, their condolences, their empathy. It only seems natural, but you don’t learn for a few more years that yes, support and acknowledgement from your fellow humans are actually ESSENTIAL components to the healing process. While you are immersed in a grieving process eerily similar to that of someone who lost a physical child, you are met with blank stares, minimizations and lectures on attitude and the ease of adoption from those who have never ever had to consider it. Although you live under the constant threat of unpredictable panic attacks that ravage your body, the world acts as though all you ever did was go to the beach and pick your nose. Your pain is continually bastardized by being individualized – no one, it seems, is able to draw the all too obvious conclusion that, if they had to go through the same thing, they would be feeling as you’re feeling and behaving as you’re behaving.
You’re stalked by the ever present harsh truth that your pain, your loss, your trauma from which you bravely have to try and heal does not, in the outside world, exist. You, your person still exists, but it has no choice but to be influenced by agony and acclimation for a good long while, and by that which is most human in all of us – love.
“……….the essence of grief:
Your life comes to be organically shaped, hijacked even, by this painful love for your children who didn’t get to live. Invisable children, internal love and unacknowledged grief culminate into a daily experience of being unseen and unheard. You are baffled by the world’s lack of empathy, sensitivity, imagination and intuition which results in you wanting to simultaneously live in an underground bunker and shout yourself to everyone who passes by perhaps in the form of days of the week t-shirts that would read something like this:
Blank Stares Suck
Handle With Care
Proud Embryo Mama
(4 cells and not counting)
It’s not Cognitive…..
Needs Major Revamping
I lost my children to infertility
and all I got
was this stinkin T-Shirt
So, yeah. Not only have you lost your children, societal indifference has rendered your fellow humans yet another source of pain. You are now without children AND a tribe. You know that the sharing of your wounds will get them trampled on much of the time and you find yourself in a constant onslaught of judgement calls as to what you can and can’t handle on any given day, immersed in the futile tap dance of “to speak or not to speak, either way I’m kind of screwed.” As the slim margin of release you get from speaking is no tradeoff for the energy it took to find words and take risk in your rightfully traumatized state, you are 100% reliant on “maybe what I say will make things better for the person who comes after me” for fuel.
Through this sharing process, you come across some rare birds, some very special people who listen and care and actually try to meet you where you are at. You’re amazed, but there is still something missing. Those who love you hang in there like troopers, glacially adjusting to your pain and healing and the person you are becoming and the different life you start leading. They try their best, you love them for it, knowing you would be unequivocally worse off if they didn’t try. Often limited by a lack of context with which to perceive your plight through no fault of their own, something is still missing. Conversations about anything normal are unbearable for a while, like as in a couple of years while, but as the pain starts to dull, something is still missing.
In conversation with you, people are prone to grasping perceived threads of connection or comfort – subjects that take up 5% of your life will somehow end up taking up 90% of the conversation. Conversations often hold the feeling of clutching a buoy while your vast ocean of grief, healing, writing, emotional exploration, change, realization and re-envisioning goes untouched. Finding a tributary in is always awkward and inorganic – “Uh, yeah, so…..about this vast ocean churning around me…..funny you haven’t mentioned it. Or responded when I did. Or contributed anything that might run the chance of meeting it……”
I found myself particularly nervous a few days before my trip. Truth was, my nerves had been preceded by something I hadn’t felt in years: Pure, unbridled excitement. I’m on the heels of literally years of unrequited excitement, excitement that has only resulted in torment and anguish and a shattered life. Things that are supposed to be good and make sense manifesting into rubble has become a hallmark of my reality. While I was tempted to trust the way in which my soul was a-flutter, I allowed myself to be rational. And to doubt. “We’re all just people regardless, so I’m trying to have normal expectations.” “What if this ISN’T what I’ve been missing, then there’s really nowhere else for me to go” I shared with my husband. The idea of anticipated connections not panning out incited feelings of vulnerability. And what if I couldn’t shut off my necessary coping mechanisms in the face of people with whom I didn’t need them? What if I had forgotten how to be a normal human??
To be continued…….