One year ago I walked out of the sliding glass door in my kitchen to take stock of the situation with our Aspen trees. Barely saplings, my husband and I had planted the trees the summer before and I was not confident they would thrive. They were tall and thin and the branches looked as if they would never survive the raging drought that lasted through the winter months. As the Spring thawed the ground I looked each day in hopes that little buds would form and prove that life still existed inside the stalks of the trees. I approached the trees, standing and swaying like three old weeds waiting to be pulled, and there I saw it, little splashes of green as their leaves began to release themselves from their slumber. Rebirth. Just moments before I had stared with awe as the pregnancy test showed me two lines indicating a spring was happening deep inside of me as well.
Today I saw it again, the first sign of the leaves exploding out of the somewhat stronger Aspen trees. But today I sat in my chair at the kitchen table looking out through the glass doors and didn't venture outside to see. It has been quite a year. Excitement as the baby grew inside of me and the entire world bloomed as well, and then darkness as our baby died in my womb and left my body just shy of 20 weeks after our journey together began.
I shut down.
And then, I found purpose. I knew that the way my husband and I experienced this loss and the inadequate care we received following was wrong. If it was happening to us it was surely happening to others so something had to be done and my husband and I were the ones to do it. We started The Peanut Project to support others by creating new norms for dealing with pregnancy loss and family support in the way we wish we had been supported.
I got to work.
I found purpose.
I re-learned how to smile.
Most of the time I was OK. And yet, I would wake up crying for my baby. I had very vivid dreams of my son. I saw signs of him everywhere, from a peanut shell showing up in my mint plant to the abundance of mother/baby images that seemed to be showing up in my day to day interactions. He was with me.
I was desperate to be pregnant again and I kept eating for two. My body never stopped looking pregnant, it taunted me. Each month I was sure I had conceived. I felt traditional early pregnancy symptoms like nausea, fatigue and a heightened sense of smell and each month as I counted the days of my cycle my period came. As my weight continued to climb the close of each monthly cycle ripped at my uterus and tore through my spirit. And I ate, and ate. I ate to feel joy. I love a good meal and my husband is an unbelievable cook. We nurtured our souls with food and meanwhile I was ravaging my body.
My friends who have watched me work so hard to maintain a healthy body weight as a means of controlling the diabetes that is always threatening to explode within me gently supported me. My husband tip-toed around the issue wanting me to know that he loved me and desired me as a man desires a woman, no matter what my body looked like, and he silently feared for my wellbeing as he saw me fall exhausted in to bed each night well before the children.
I knew I was not OK but I did not know what to do about it. I also did not really want to do anything about it. I was doing alright enough. I was doing my work. I was getting through the days. I was trying to build my business. And with each step of the day to day I told myself I was doing ok and I had recovered from the loss. Then I had a fight with my husband.
Michael and I hardly ever fight. We disagree, and sometimes it takes a bit of effort to hear each other out and come to an agreement (meaning he finally agrees to see it my way), but it is a rarity for us to fight. It was a silly argument over a very inconsequential interaction but I was hurt and then he was hurt and eventually it exploded into a torrent of tears and his honest proclamation that he was scared for me, scared for the health of my mind and my body and then he said the words that sent my heart to the depths of sadness, he "wanted his wife back."
The following morning I was celebrating with a friend who was recovering from cancer on her 40th birthday. We went to a spa for the day with a group of her close friends and as I was chatting with one of the women I heard myself say what I'd said hundreds of times since the loss of the baby, "I don't want to lose the weight, it's the last thing I have of the baby." As the words came out I realized it was time. I realized that I could not eat my way back to being pregnant with my son. I realized that no amount of pounds added would equal pregnancy. I knew my husband was right, his wife was gone and only I could bring her back. I did not realize that I had buried myself with the baby I never got to physically bury.
I made two calls. The first to my nutritionist. The second to a counselor, a friend and colleague who came very highly recommended. It was during our second session that I had an experience like none other before.
I sat in the middle of the long couch on the crack between the cushions as she sat in her chair. I was admiring her beautiful Spring outfit and was full of angst about what we may address, the baby or any of the other challenges I seemed to be facing. She asked me what I'd like to address and I said "the challenge I am feeling with my step-son." Home on 10 days of leave before deploying to Japan for 3 years of military service he had seemingly regressed to his high school behaviors and was treating the family with disrespect and I did not know how to handle my feelings about it. It was present and I felt impacting my ability to focus on the healing I needed to do.
She asked me to close my eyes, my feet firmly planted on the ground and my body supported by the pillows behind me. As memories flowed in my mind's eye she asked me to focus and let her know when the stream stopped. As each one flew by tears began to drip down my face and my memories came to a rest. I knew where I was.
I was laying on a table. I was in a hospital. It was quiet, very quiet. I was alone except for the presence of a blue baby in between my legs. I had just given birth but it was silent. I was calm and there above me was the spirit of my little girl. She was checking me out. She was deciding wether she was going to join us in this world or continue on her journey. Her spirit was pleasant, warm and loving - all of the things she is today even at 13 years old. In a way all her own she smiled and decided she'd join us. It was the instant between her entrance in this world and the entrance of 30 doctors and nurses as a code was called and my first born baby revived.
My memories began to move again flying through my grandmother's house and coming to rest once more on a picture of my husband that hangs on our staircase. I remembered it as the first picture I ever saw of him. He appeared to be in a wooden room. He was sitting and wearing his favorite green sweater. His face was glowing and his body appeared to be light and energy. The energy began to fill my body and my mind moved once more, this time I felt pain.
It was ripping through the back of my head, a searing pain that began to pull me back. My counselor asked me to describe what I was feeling and I focused on the pain and felt a ring attached at the base of my neck wrapped through my cerebral cortex controlling me. The ring pulled at me and my breath was being taken away by the control it had over me. Once again my counselor guided me, she asked if any of the people in my memories could help to release me from that ring. I focused on all of the people I had seen, my husband, my daughter, my grandmother and finally help seemed to come from Peanut, my baby that was never born, he was pulling on the ring.
At first I thought he was there to help and then I realized he was yanking on the ring. I wanted him to stop to let go and I focused on asking him to stop controlling the ring to let me go and as this struggle was going on in my mind and the tears were flowing through sobs I had a window, a moment of clarity. Peanut was not controlling the ring, I had put the ting there to tether his spirit to mine. While his physical presence had left my body I was holding on with all of the might I could summon to his spirit. Fear and panic wracked my body as I knew I had to let his spirit be. I had to let him go and do and be whatever he is to be in this world and that by tethering him to me I was preventing both of us from giving to the world what it is that we are here to give.
Knowing I was holding him back helped me want to release him but the idea of separating his soul from mine felt like having the D&C to remove his body from mine all over again. I focused on the pulling at the back of my head and silently spoke to him as I did when he was growing in my womb. I told him I was excited for him to go out and perhaps be born to another. I wondered what he might do in this world and I wished I could watch him and see him manifest in another's baby. I assured him I'd be ok and that he could go and I would no longer keep him tied to me. Together we began the process of separation, a separation that should have happened months earlier.
I left my counselor's office with so many emotions. A special closeness to my daughter, a respect for the energy that my husband brings to us and a sense of wonder for who or what Peanut may now become.
When I woke from a very deep sleep the next morning my body was overcome by the emotional journey of the day before and I spent the day in bed only noticing the budding leaves on the Aspen trees as I came downstairs to sit at the table for dinner. I sat there at peace surrounded by my family and surrounded by their love which continues to support me on my journey.