Angels on the Devil’s Backbone

I took a break from my worry and hiked the Devil’s Backbone in Loveland, Colorado. I saw a beautiful family; they were about 400 yards ahead of me, if you uncurled a track and rolled it out. This family screamed AP, although the only noises I heard were tree swallows singing, the quiet meadow hum, and the sizzle of cicadas.

The Devil's Backbone in Loveland, Colorado
The Devil’s Backbone

 

The mother was wearing her newborn in a pink print sling, her hiking boots anchoring her strong mama legs; the father was holding his three-year-old son’s hand. They were beautiful.

Family hiking on trail
Family hiking on trail

 

I was visiting my mom in May of 2011. She was in the hospital, facing death.

We had had a scary close call. It came late Thursday evening at 10 p.m. from the nursing home. “Megan, this is John from Berthoud Living Center. Your mom has a high fever and is non-responsive. It doesn’t look good. You should get out here as soon as you can.”

I was on a plane Saturday.

My son had just turned one and we were actively breastfeeding. I say we because breastfeeding is a symbiotic relationship. He was not only nursing, I was nursing him.

I had no choice but to pump, pray, and get on the plane.

I was desperately sad in so many hollows of my heart — cracks and fissures leaked for my mom, for myself, for my son. I had to leave my son to go to my mother.

I hated leaving abruptly. I was heartbroken that our symbiotic relationship would end. I felt as if my breast milk had tears.

We scurried around to pack my things and deal with last minute travel arrangements.

I took my shattered heart and stitched it together with my son’s laughter and my husband’s voice. My husband drove me to the airport in Raleigh. We had a forty-five minute drive. I had planned an attached good-bye — if there is such a thing. I planned what I thought was going to be our last breastfeeding session for early morning before we left. I was going to hold him closely in my arms, caress his loose curls, stare into his azure eyes, and fossilize this bond.

That didn’t happen.

What did happen was I jumped in the back seat of the car on the way to the airport and stuck my boob in his face, draining each engorged breast while he was strapped into his car seat as my husband drove ten miles above the speed limit.

This was it. I was heartbroken again. I had planned it differently.

The thing is, it doesn’t work the way we plan.

Damn it all to the Devil’s Backbone.

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

***

I eventually caught up with the family on the trail at the Devil’s Backbone.

Newborn in a sling
Newborn in a sling

 

We stopped at the overlook and took in the beauty that is Northern Colorado. I had needed to get some time in just for myself. I needed to strive for balance, although it seemed in vain. I chatted with the family. They had never heard of Attachment Parenting, even though they were so very attached. The mama wore her baby, they both valued touch and responsiveness, and the mama was breastfeeding both children. We chatted some more and walked together to the lookout of the valley.

 

valley lookout

I am not saying there is a checklist or a way to qualify as an AP parent. I believe if you are trying to build and foster a connection with your children, then you are an AP parent. Many families that practice what is labeled AP have never heard of it. Sometimes a rose is a rose is a rose.

Life doesn’t happen in checklists, plans, or labels; it happens outside of those arenas — when the running track we race around is uncurled metaphorically and we just walk – we just be.

family walking back
Family walking back

 

I am thinking about this beautiful area now in Colorado — in the midst of its own natural disaster, in the midst of its own heartbreak.

Worry. Heartache. Joy. Such a cycle I live by as a mama, as a wife, as an aunt, as a sister. I am still a daughter, always will be, but my mama is in heaven now with my father. I wanted to call my mom desperately the other day, almost dialing the number I can not bear to delete on my cell phone.

My mom made it through that big scare in 2011. She was hospitalized just in the nick of time.

When we finally got her admitted to the hospital, she was hallucinating and said to me, “There are some folks from heaven here who want me to go with them.”

I said, “Tell them to take a number; I just got to town.”

She was dehydrated and had sepsis from a very bad urinary tract infection. She passed away on Christmas Eve the next year from sepsis.

My son and I continued to breastfeed for a year and half more after I returned.

We just can’t plan for it all. Life happens. As Charlotte Perkins Gilman, who wrote “The Yellow Wallpaper” and had postpartum psychosis, said, “Life is a verb, not a noun.”

So I pray, smile, live, worry, pray, smile, live, and worry. I hope, wish, dream, be. I am going to harvest my worry and harvest my hope. What else can I do?

Colorado Beauty

There are ways to help Colorado. You can Google “Colorado Flooding: Ways to Help.” There are several links to various organizations, including The Red Cross. There is also Facebook group called Colorado Flood Relief.

 

 

Red Rose of St. Therese

Miscarriage – The Silent Empty Box

To be filled with life is something.  To be pregnant with a growing little miracle of science and nature in your belly is beautiful.  To lose a pregnancy is sad.  The feeling is surrounded with so many emotions.  Guilt, loss, nothing, emptiness, aching, breaking, bending into shadows dark.  I had to take a break today and submerge myself in some creative work.  I wanted to shake this feeling of empty.  Shake it loose from the empty box it resides in now.  Like a box with nothing inside.  Just invisible strings connecting back to my heart.  I don’t know how to put it in words so I am not going to worry about using dazzling adverbs or catchy phrases, but they may just happen to come out that way.  I just want to write a post about it.

There are so many women out there feeling this same feeling today, yesterday, tomorrow.  It covers me like a vine nobody can see.  Much like a bean pole vine grasping to anything its tendril can reach.

Photo by memomuse – “Bean Pole Vines in My Garden”

Something sturdy, mounted in dirt, standing upright.  This vine of sadness can’t grasp onto nothing.  So I grasp and curl around words.  Around people I trust.  Around acknowledgement that it happened. That’s its over. That I need to grieve.

As my mind curls and bends in thoughts of what may have been, what was just yesterday, before the bleeding started, before the sadness erupted.  Before yesterday, I was cocooning into a ball of beauty, growing inside, feelings of joy and elation surrounded me.  Flowers and fruits of joy rippled in the sun.

“Layers of Light” – Photo by memomuse Layers of light echoed over me, through me, around me, spinning into thick spidery webs.  Now there is nothing.  Just this box of invisible sadness nobody can see with the naked eye.

Long story short – I went to visit my dying mother in Colorado three weeks ago.  The night before I left, my husband and I made love.  I went home to Wyoming and Colorado where I feel the most alive and vibrant, for it is home and my place on this earth.  I have been transplanted to North Carolina and I am trying to make the most of it.  But back home, where I come from, just as the Kenny Chesney song sings, I love it there.  On this journey where I thought I was going to say goodbye to my mother, I was surrounded by a land that knows me.  That I know.  That I love.  This journey home, this journey to say goodbye, something magical happened.  We conceived a baby.  A miracle.  A seed that sprouted into life.  I found out last week I was pregnant.  I took three home pregnancy tests and was more surprised with each positive test, as I have struggled with infertility in the past.  My son is just thirteen months old.  We were not actively trying to get pregnant.  So it was a surprise to find out we were pregnant without even a blink of the eye, without a blink of the heart.

I took a home pregnancy test on Monday, then Wednesday, and then Saturday.  All positive.  The faint blue line got thicker with each test.  I took a urine test at the doctor on Monday and they told me to come back in a week because it was, not without a doubt, positive, but there was a shadow line.  So I took two more home tests that week, Wednesday and Saturday.  And sure enough, positive.  I started to feel the pregnancy symptoms, fatigue and drop to the floor tired.

I went in to take another urine test at the doctor yesterday,  feeling it wasn’t needed, feeling pregnant, feeling sure a life was growing and thriving inside me.  I didn’t need a doctor or lab technician to tell me I was pregnant.  Something bigger happened – a life bloomed from my journey to say goodbye to my mother.  How serendipitous.  How miraculous.  How joyous. It made the fact that my mother is dying a soft sleeve to rest on.  To rejoice on.  I was sure this baby was a girl and I was going to name her Eleanor Elizabeth and call her Ellie Elizabeth.

My mom, Elizabeth, and me as a baby

Elizabeth, named after my mother. I had visions of her soft curls, her big blue eyes, her big heart.

When I took the test at the doctor just yesterday, I noticed some blood.  Frightened, I told the nurse.  Then the results from the lab technician came in.  The test was negative.   I fumbled with my paperwork to hand to the check out clerk at the doctors.  She gave me a silent nod and a sweet abbreviation of sugar, “You’re all set, Sug.”   I wanted so badly to walk out the back door, nobody to see my sadness or my tears, as they began to gush. I walked past all the ripe bellies, round and plump with life.

Sometimes I wish there was a sign women going through the grief of miscarriage could wear on their back.  “Please treat with kindness – grieving heart – may slumber slowly today and tomorrow and certainly the day after next.”  But it is invisible.  Our eyes are swollen, sad, and watered with tears only time can heal.  There is no clock for this time passage.  It is not an hour, a week, a month, or a year.  It is a hole in our heart.  We go on.  And on. And hopefully you can give a hug to someone in need.  Perhaps, you just don’t know.  And what do you say? There are no words.  Just invisible tendrils trying to clutch at something strong, sturdy.  For it may be the hope of another chance at conceiving.

My toddler in my arms
Perhaps it is the smile from a toddler in your arms.  Perhaps it is the earthy soil in your hands as you plant a memorial garden.  Perhaps, the box is still empty when you shake it, although you are sure something is inside.  Something thick. Something heavy.  Because something like a life just doesn’t vanish when you bleed.

* This essay was written four months ago.

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