Okay friends, writing about my water breaking in the middle of the night and not understanding what was happening brings me to a hard question. Why didn't I go to the hospital when I knew something was wrong? Do you know what I did instead? I got up at 6 am and I went into my classroom to make sub plans; with a pad on, because water was still leaking out of me. Going in to make sub plans is what I thought I had to do, and I did it. There is a lot to unpack here, and I think it leads to some universal struggles that we all face.
First, why didn't I go to the hospital?
The first time I bumped up against this question was when I had begun writing the "Levi story" again with vigor in 2014. I was workshopping it with a group of other writers. My fellow writers were upset. Why was "the character" so passive? Why didn't she do something??? Why didn't she go get help? In that moment, faced with real people questioning me, I suddenly saw past what all the medical people had told me: that there was nothing I could have done differently. There WAS something I could have done differently. I could have gone into the hospital the night before. They could have given me antibiotics. Maybe Levi could have lived. I had literally never seen this option before.
My skin went cold and my heart stopped that morning as I listened to the writerly feedback. I suddenly saw myself in a new way. A terrifyingly new way. I saw my smallness. My scared, passive inaction and self-doubt. And the consequences of those things. Our writing circle was in my own house that day. We were sitting around my own dining room table when I got slapped in the face by this new image of myself.
After that meeting, I mysteriously and suddenly got Very Busy. So busy! There was absolutely no time in my life to write. My schedule filled and overflowed and I could no longer meet with this writing group. I no longer cared about them anyway. My heart had hardened. My defenses were up. I didn't like them anymore and I was certain they didn't like me either. The writing had become like a hot coal that burned my hand. I threw it away, far far away from myself, and left it alone on the ground to smolder out and die. I couldn't deal.
So now as I return to writing the story again years later, I face this question sitting there still. Why didn't I go to the hospital when I felt that something was wrong? It feels important.
I'm unpacking it. Digging around a bit. It boils down to this: I didn't know how to follow my gut instinct yet. I didn't trust my knowing.
I have typed, deleted, typed, changed, deleted. But here are the places I feel heat:
1. It's a powerful thing when a doctor or an an authority figure tells us what to do.
Listening to an authority figure. Something to dig around for in here. Giving my power away to people all the time. I still do this without even noticing it.
Still, I could have gone in. I didn’t even need to call.
2. I felt afraid to be the over-emotional, hysterical woman demanding undue attention on herself, with everyone rolling their eyes at her behind her back. I was actually worried about being a bother to the emergency doctors. That they would say, “Oh, this poor, naive pregnant woman wasting our time.” There is something to dig around for here, too.
What had I observed and absorbed about how women are viewed and treated, without even realizing it? I didn’t want to be one of “those” women. I wanted to be a strong woman. A respected woman. A woman who drinks her coffee black, eats her chocolate dark, knows her own mind and bucks up when things go wrong. And looks beautiful the whole time doing it. But on the other side, I wanted to be a sweet woman who everyone loves and wants to be around. But not the helpless woman, never the over-emotional one. Keep those emotions under wraps and be mindful of everyone in the room. It's the “How to be a Woman" problem that squeezes the person right out of the equation. (Bleck.)
So I fell back on the tried and true strategy that I wasn't even aware of yet: the strategy of not being a bother or an inconvenience, of just bucking up and quietly enduring, of doing what I was told and what needed to be done, after applying lipstick. The on-call doctor told me to come in in the morning when they opened at 9:00, so that is what I did (see #1...listen to the authority).
3. What meanness I imagine on people. Would doctors really roll their eyes at me for coming in because I was having regular cramps and my water may have broken? No. And if they did, that would be on them, not me. I gave my power away to my mean imagination. How often do I (do we all) do this one?
4. Unfortunately, religious conditioning lies in the darkness here too, and I can't unsee it. A lifetime of being told my physical impulses were sinful or untrustworthy took a toll. I had long doubted and even feared my body, relying on my mind instead. My body was clearly telling me one thing, but my mind was uncertain. I defaulted to my confused mind and chose hesitation. There is so much to dig around for here. How to listen to the body. All that religious conditioning.
They say our conscious mind is just the tip of the iceberg of who we are and how we live.
Learning to trust myself and trust LIFE is one of the central themes of how I was changed by losing all control and just showing up for the whole thing anyway.
Levi was my initiation. Holding him and then losing him, grieving him and also experiencing life show up for me every single day unlocked something for me: an experience of letting go and falling into the unknown; an experience that life and love are with me through the pain and struggle; an experience that I was, in fact, capable of navigating.
It is so so hard and scary though. Stepping away from what I know, into the unknown, at the urging of that invisible place inside me never stops getting hard and scary. The hard and scary just become more recognizable as part of the process.
It is safe to trust ourselves. We need to. It is actually the safest way.
Hi friends and family! This is where I'll share excerpts of my writing and bits about my writing process as I bring it all together into a book . Thank you for sharing in this process with me! Fellow writers, I encourage you to share your words, too. Sharing our writing is an important and generous act. We humans find our way together as we share stories from the heart.