I just finished a 5 page paper documenting my transplant experience and the mix of death and life that collide within the same body when undergoing the process of a deceased donor organ transplant.
This morning I sat down to an interview about my experience in the ICU, being on a ventilator, what I remember and what I don't. And while the individual conducting the interview was kind and very receptive to my story, even speaking the words out loud brought me back to that place, that moment and the fear that filled my body.
I'm waiting on some test results right now, and so far none of the probable scenarios look good, and yesterday I spoke the words out loud for the first time of what it could be. After that I came home and cried because the magnitude of it all washed over me. What I've survived up until this point, the complexities of trauma my body and soul have gone through, and the potential paths that lay before me. There's no word for it yet, no firmly set diagnosis. And I know the importance of a name. How the words we use and the stories we tell matter. How when we bring things into the light, into name and flesh and form, we are able to also invite in healing, and how it is shame that thrives in darkness.
I realized in these last few days of speaking my medical story, I've been carrying a lot of shame, and fear. Keep pushing, don't look down. Why did I do x,y,z...? Why do I feel the need to justify the fact that this is hard, wrapping each new emotion up with the tiniest little fragment of bad news like that will make the sorrow or the anger or the grief more palatable to others?
Today in class, we were talking about our painful stories, our shame stories, and seeing with eyes of compassion. It was also the day my doula used the term compassionate induction to describe my birth story with Paris. Compassionate Induction? I scoffed, then I realized I'd been holding tightly to the grit and guts of what happened that day, that I'd taken actions to "punish myself" feeling like I deserved it for what I had done. I couldn't let myself use the term compassionate induction, because wasn't that too easy? But then again, what if the person I was having compassion for was me?
My son was not only brought into the world that day, surgically lifted from my body and then placed into a box in which he would be buried, moved only to be wrapped in the blanket we bought him, but my motherhood was induced that day too. In a whirlwind of blood and pain and wrapped in words like dying and failure to thrive, I was so focused on the failure that I forgot about the new mother thrust into the world that day, disoriented and grieving, barely older than a child herself.
In telling these stories, writing these narratives, I am being reborn. I am stepping into the suffering and showing myself compassion. I am eliminating the power of fear and shame, and I no longer think I was deserving of it all. At the basic and most primal level, I did and continue to do what a mother does. I have clawed my way out of the darkness, and I am rediscovering my voice.
Life is hard, and I don't need to justify that or put qualifications around my pain. I am entitled to every messy moment along the way. I will be there, knee deep in the trenches, abiding with my own self in my suffering. I am telling the truth, even and especially if my voice shakes.
And from this self compassion, from the seed pain planted, a new kind of woman is being born.