At 26 my body is supple and strong. My belly flat, my breasts ripe, my legs trim and long. I feel more beautiful than ever. I wear the brown pencil skirt snuggling my hips and thighs, and the little yellow spaghetti strapped tank, braless, as if my body will never change.
I stand at the side of her hospital bed, hands over my womb, hiding the secret I carry.
She lays there, under the crisp white sheets, hair covered in a light blue cap, staring back at me. “I’m so proud of you”. She says. Unknowing of the baby in my belly.
I’m ripe and strong and ready to give life while she is withering weak with only months to go.
Breasts begin to swell, thighs start to touch, belly quickly blooms.
White stripes stretch across the once firm belly, the once maiden breasts.
The secret is no longer a secret.
Baby screams. Belly shrinks.
I trade in the pencil skirt for the milk-stained shirt. For the yoga pants. For the messy bun. For the sleepless nights. For the loss of my younger life.
Baby #1 turns into baby #2.
I stand at the side of her queen sized bed and whisper in her ear. “There’s a baby in my belly, Mom. Can you hear me? There’s a baby in my belly.”
I think I see her nod. I feel her know my knowing.
She sinks in deeper to wherever she is going.
And takes her last breath.
She is gone.
Breasts swell. Thighs touch. Belly blooms.
White stripes are war wounds.
Baby sucks. Life bleeds. Body takes the hits.
At 32 I stand tired and determined. Determined to turn my grief into meaning. I stand in the doorway of my temple and welcome her in. My mother in many forms. Many forms of women.
They stare back at me. They tell me their stories. They ache their aches. I take them into my womb. I take them as my own. I try to heal them.
At 37 my body feels broken and ragged. My breasts are sore. I can’t give anymore.
I am on the bathroom floor. Knees pulled into my chest, arms wrapped around my body. I hold myself in the fetal position. I am in her womb.
I feel her death in my cells. Darkness tells me her secrets.
“Slow down”. She whispers. “You are not me. Find your own home.”
I close the door. I say goodbye. I cut the cord.
We stand in a circle barefoot on the earth, hands linking us as one. My two children and my husband. Our mulberry tree full of green life stands with us as we say our goodbyes.
Goodbye trees. Goodbye roses. Goodbye fences we’ve climbed. Goodbye neighbors. Goodbye birds. Goodbye dear life of mine.
We say goodbye to a ten year life with a prayer for a new beginning. A prayer for healing. A prayer for space and a prayer for more time.
We drive away. Unraveling.
Pieces of me left behind on the highway to the unknown. Driving at the pace of hope.
At 40 I stand by the side of the river of a new land. I feel more pain than ever. Beaten and bruised. My belly swollen with deep aches inside my womb. Swords and knives cut my insides with each breath. I wear flowy shirts to hide the swell and stretchy pants to move with the pain. I pray my body will heal and change.
I ask the river for help. “Show me the way”, I say.
The water kisses my toes. I watch her shimmer and glow.
I hear her voice.
“Endometriosis.” She says. “Your mother had it and her mother too. It’s the ache inside your womb. It’s the deep feminine wound. Listen deeply, and you will know the way.”
Insides torn up. Womb on fire. Stomach swells. Back aches.
Fatigue feels like a war on my already wounds.
“A hysterectomy.” He tells me. “That’s the only way.”
“We will take your womb and your ovaries and the cervix too. We will remove your appendix and your tubes and the Endometriosis that is killing you.”
“You will get your life back”, he says. “And your body will be free”.
And so it is.
Today I stand in front of the mirror, a woman without a womb. I stand naked with nothing left to wear. I have more scars on my body and plenty more war wounds. But I am more whole than ever.
No one took my womb, you see. I gave it away. I blessed it and thanked it and told her how grateful I am. I put all the wounds and all the grief and all the loss and all the hurt and everything that made me sacrifice myself into my womb, and I let go. I let it all go. I let her go.
You see, I am not her. I am me. We crossed paths and tangled in love and life and mystery. But I am here to fully heal. I am here to break patterns and release old wounds.
I am here to stand naked in front of the mirror, bandaged and bruised, and find my own beauty even when it hurts. I am here to speak from my gut, to hold your hand, and light as many lanterns as I can. I am here to be me but to never give myself away. Again.
From here I continue to forge forward into the unknown. Step by step. Day by day. I cross each bridge with courage and grace and I thank my body for carrying me the whole way.
She is forever supple and strong. She is resilient and whole. She always prevails.
She is me.