It’s been a long, tumultuous, and taxing six months. In certain indigenous cultures, six months is a marker – perhaps of survival beyond death, or the slow recovery process towards sanity. At times, I no longer understand the “concept” of sanity, as my mind has become an act of its own, leaving my higher self with the devastating process of observing its scheming acts. Just observing, without the capability of changing a thing. For now. Perhaps that’s where the sanity exists, somewhere in the future, some light years away, when I learn to shift and reside in my true nature, of the moment to moment peace and stillness. I await for the light to engulf me, to inhale the stardust of the star I come from. Until then, the world is chaotic and the stories evolve in a dramatic way. I am Shakespeare and my life is a tragedy.
It’s a process. A process. A process. I must constantly remind myself of this. I cannot shed years and lifetimes of conditioning and embedded patters within a span of time that fits in a calendar. But I’m working through it, minute by minute, day by day…six months. It took death and loss to be a catalyst for growth, for the work to begin, where Pandora’s box opened wide and let the demons of my past come out of their hiding places. The demons, the patterns, so deeply rooted. And here I am now, getting to know the roots of these patters, their time of origin, pulling at them with all my might, and trying to discard while remaining grounded. Once again, it is a game of balance.
I refuse to reside with the demons in the form in which they come. I have opened the gates and allowed armies of them to enter. My mind. My body. My soul. From the unconscious to the conscious. They have been found out. There is no going back. My work now is to understand them, accept them, and transform them. They can no longer be hidden. But where does the work really begin?
I don’t want to look up a definition of trauma because I have my own. I have lived my own, and so I own my own. It is the time and the space where things as we know, things that are safe, become strange and dangerous. It is where space constricts and defenses raise. It is when hearts break and the Earth shakes. It is where boundaries and walls are built. It is when patterns begin. It is the root of fear. The root of conditioning. The root of a weed, which without control, can overtake one’s entire life.
I choose not to be bitter, sad, or resentful. I don’t want to become addicted to pain. I have met my highest potential and fell in love with her. I have met her in a place of peace, deep understanding, and absolute surrender. And though I know she is always with me, I cannot always find her. And so I search for her, sometimes through this rough work of gardening, within the rocky soil, and beneath the hardy roots.
To extinguish the roots, I must know the roots, and to know the roots, I must live the roots. At least. One. More. Time.
It’s easy to hide a traumatic experience in the depths of the unconscious. It’s easy to forget. It’s convenient to forget. But what is forgotten never really goes away. It’s always with us, just tucked away under the carpet. Only in times of stillness, the vacuuming and dusting gets done, and then Boom! There it is. Hello!
So finally after months of resistance, I gained the courage to sit with my experience.
I have been fooling myself into thinking that I can meditate off the cushion. I made every excuse not to sit …it’s too early in the morning…I have a headache…I’m tired, and so on. We are the masters of excuses when our mind rebels against itself, or when the ego wants for the patterns to remain embedded. There was so much up there for me to process that it was simply the intensity of the material that I feared most. But I was pushed into sitting by my own actions. I felt myself becoming a monster. My anger was out of control and other extremities of my emotions impossible to handle. I was drowning in the invisible forces. I attached my pain to anything tangible – my partner, the food I was eating, the driver who cut me off, my friends who were being assholes. Living became hard. I was going through the grieving process without really processing what has happened. I was disconnected from my past because I refused to revisit it. I subconsciously put a cover over my trauma and walked in circles around what was hidden, utterly frustrated by its mystery. Within the first few days of sitting with my breath, the mystery was unveiled. Memories came flooding in, replaying the movie of my experience with birthing death.
And so it goes…
Jan. 19th, 2012
I drove out to California with my best friend in the seventh month of my pregnancy to sit a final 10 day Vippassana course, before becoming a busy mother. I figured, shit, this might be my last road trip for a while, and what could be better for the baby than a calm and peaceful mama? I got in my car and headed west. If women all over the world can work until the day they give birth, then why would I not be able to handle a short trip? We followed all guidelines by stopping every hour or two to walk around and get the circulation flowing, and never drove for more than seven hours a day. I was being safe and cautious. We reached California within 3 days and arrived at the Vipassana center outside of Fresno just after sunset. That night, right before I went to sleep, I felt Leif kick hard, for what was to be the last time. I remember sitting in meditation the next morning, knowing somewhere deep inside that something was wrong. I couldn’t focus on my breath because my mind or my intuition kept on coming back to the persistent urge to leave. But I ignored my intuition, and went into the kitchen to work. By noon, with still no sign of fetal movement, I began to freak out. I called Nathan and he instructed me to go to the nearest hospital. I waited for Jo to get out of meditation, made a million phone calls, trying to find a place where I could actually get an ultrasound without a referral, and left the center.
At the hospital, we were greeted with a bunch of stuck up people and a too many questions. They brought me into a room with about 10 other women separated by thin curtains and checked for the heartbeat with a doppler. No heartbeat. I asked the woman,” what does that mean?” “was there any possibility that the doppler was off, that perhaps the baby was in a weird position,” but she just looked at me and told me to wait. Wait for what? Wait for the worst? Wait to find out that my baby might or might not be alive? I waited. I waited for almost three hours before anyone came back. I can account to those three house being the worst of my entire life. I was surrounded by heartbeats, loud and clear, from all the other women’s babies, echoing through the room, and there I was…waiting. If Jo was not there with me, I would have lost my sanity. But she was, holding my hand and drying my tears. I loved her for being there then as I do now, but back then I needed Nathan. I needed Leif’s father to hold me and tell me that we can get through this, no matter what the outcome is. In came the machine, confirming the worst. Leif was dead.
I had no idea what was to happen next. I never expected this. How could I? I had tests done a week before, showing my body in ideal state. My midwife told me that she wished all her clients were as healthy as I was. But there I was, healthy and all, with a baby whose heart no longer beat. They told me I would have to birth him. I couldn’t believe it. Wouldn’t believe it. How could I birth a body that was still? I didn’t fear giving birth up to that point because I knew that the life force would keep me going. But without the life force, all that remained was fear and anxiety. One of the nurses looked at me and said “don’t worry, it’s not that big of a deal.” Are you fucking kidding me? Not that big of a deal? I knew instantly that I could not stay there, could not endure another second of the inhumane maltreatment I was subjected to. I called my midwife, who in turn, told me of a smaller hospital, in San Francisco, three hours away. Everything comes in threes, right?
Nathan was already at the Denver airport, three hours away from San Francisco as well. We headed for SFO to pick up the missing piece. Numbness took over my body and mind. I couldn’t even dare look down at my belly. Reality was fused with a nightmare. It was a reality of lost dreams, the beginning of the end. I sat at the airport, waiting for almost an hour, while Jo circled around. I watched all the people embracing, laughing, living a trauma free moment. Some looked at me, but not for long. Noone could handle looking at my swollen face, the emptiness in my bloodshot eyes, my enormous, motionless belly. I wanted to disappear, to spare them the awful spectacle. I didn’t want to see him when he appeared. I wanted to crawl under something and become invisible. We hugged a brief hug, not smiling or laughing, and went on our way towards the dreaded hospital. More questions, more paperwork, and a room the size of my bathroom with no windows. This was where I was to give birth. Not home in bed, not in a big tub of water, not in the hands of my trusted midwife, but there, in the windowless cage, far away from home. Another ultrasound confirming the already confirmed. They told me I didn’t have to look, but I looked anyway, hoping that maybe someone somewhere was wrong. But they weren’t.
They brought in an on call hospital midwife. She told me that the baby must have just recently passed. I already knew that, I felt him kick 24 hours before. And then she said that she thought it would be better for me to go home to Boulder and be induced there. She suggested that having my community and home nearby would be helpful. At that point, I just wanted him out. I couldn’t imagine flying. What if I went into labor during my flight? We had the night to think it over, but how can one think in the midst of the worst situation known to a woman? There was a big black mama of a nurse who would come in and check on me. She held me as I cried. She was an angel, I’m sure of it. I don’t know how or when but the decision was made to fly home and catch the six AM flight.
I took a pain killer before the flight. As we took off, my body went into panic. It could have been the meds or the hard reality setting in. I’m not sure to this moment, but whatever triggered the panic made me feel like I, myself, was dying. My vision went blurry, while my body was shaking and sweating. I wanted to scream, and get off the plane, but I also wanted to get to Boulder. I calmed myself down with cold water and soon after fell asleep with my head on Nathan’s lap, only to awake three hours later to a beautiful, sunny day in Boulder. I left Boulder 4 days before with a completely different reality. I left as a mama-to-be and came back a stranger carrying a lifeless body.
There was no hurry. There was time for a shower and a nap. There was time for rage and breakdowns. There was time for my sister to get on a flight from Ct and arrive at the hospital hours before I was induced. I was taken in by the Boulder midwives, although I have not met any of them before. The hospital room was beautiful, even more so after my sister and Nathan brought in plants, Christmas lights, and wall hangings to make it seem more like home. The midwife on call was incredible. I was grateful to be in Boulder.
By 11 pm, I was induced. I won’t go into the details of the labor for they are beyond words and somewhat fuzzy. The two people who I love so dearly were with me the entire time – holding me, bathing me, supporting me. The life force that was missing from Leif was inside of me still. I felt myself connected to every woman from the past, present, and future. I have given birth many times before, I am sure of it. Leif’s body came out at 6 am, after two big pushes, and hours of intense contractions. My little boy was as beautiful as any breathing baby I’ve ever seen. He was almost three lbs, with a slim body and big feet, a perfect little replica of his parents. The midwife was dumbfounded. My blood work came back perfect. The placenta looked healthy. I have birthed a perfectly healthy dead baby.
I held him, kissed him, and handed him over. He was my son but he was also just a body. Dying flesh. Material that my own body grew. There was no sparkle in his eyes. There was no giggles or screams. There was only silence, and within that silence, I also managed to silence myself. In that moment, I chose to forget. Everything that followed was an acute reminder, but always held at a distance, just far enough for me to disassociate from. And so most emotions that arose thereafter were not related to losing Leif, but to every other damn thing around me. But it wasn’t until I sat with my mind that I came to this realization.
In the depths of stillness, I found the root of the many explosive emotions, sleepless nights, tears, and breakdowns. It was too obvious, and everyone around me clearly knew. But I couldn’t have known until it was discovered within my own mind, until I went down the rabbit hole and retrieved what has been stolen, or what I gave up so easily; handed right over to my unconscious.
I am recording this story so that I never again forget. I am freezing a moment of fear and hopping right back on the horse, that threw me off, that I bit, that wasn’t a horse at all. I am sharing this experience as one that forever changed my life. I am seeing the root. Sleeping with the root. Admiring the root. Conversing with the root. I am becoming the root, so that I can stop the pattern from going deeper, and from planting other toxic seeds.
I have recognized a pattern. It appears that the more patterns I identify, the more of them pop up. It is never-ending, or so it seems – a bottomless pit of roots. But they have to be realized because that is the only way I can become conscious of all that I put away in my unconscious. Like I said, there is no going back. And so I’m ready, in ways I don’t yet know, to find the roots, and transform the demons. I need to be gentle with most, as they were formed at a young age. Others are still hidden. We are an accumulation of patterns, sprung from the roots of traumatic moments. For me, it is time to awake from the unconscious. But I must remember that it’s a process. A process. A process.