Applying Compassion

In 2005, my first pregnancy ended in a traumatic miscarriage. I recognize that all miscarriages are traumatic; this one, however, did not take care of itself. After the initial days of a slow bleed, I experienced a day of what I learned later (during the labor for my first live birth) was essentially hard labor. At thirteen weeks, my body went into full contraction mode to expel this pregnancy. I began to recover. I grieved. I went back to work, only to experience massive bleeding which began while I was teaching a class. I rushed to the ER at Women’s and Babies Hospital, where I was given surgical help to complete the miscarriage.

This was one of the most difficult times of my life. In the hospital, I received immediate and compassionate care from everyone involved. There was no questioning, no second-guessing. Of course my records confirmed that I had had a sonogram the previous week that showed a nonviable fetus. Still, I experience horror when I think of the stories I have read of women in my same situation who were forced to wait and bleed for hours or days because a rigorously anti-abortion hospital would not give surgical assistance without establishing the lack of a heartbeat. In some cases, women have developed infections or lost grave amounts of blood or even died for lack of essential medical care during miscarriage.

Will these merciless anti-abortion laws increase the risks for miscarrying women? I have absolutely no doubt that they will. On top of that, women who are experiencing the tragedy of pregnancy loss, of the self-doubt and shame we carry about how our bodies have let us down, will be placed in the position of being interrogated about whether they did anything to cause their miscarriages, with the risk of being charged as felons if they are not believed.

If some of us are particularly twitchy and quick to rage and grieving these days, it might have something to do with this, with having to re-open the trauma of our pregnancy losses–for whatever their reason or cause–finding ourselves imagining what the world will be like for women of the future who may have to endure what we experienced, only without compassionate care or empathetic understanding.

It’s time to trust women to understand what is happening to our bodies.

Questioning the Wolf

Little Red
I am a big fan of reinterpreting the wolf, of finding new ways to look at fairy tales. I think that’s one of the great beauties of fairy tales: like dream images, they can hold so many meanings, so many messages. I need my wolf today to be as big and scary as the messages from last night’s dream. I need Little Red to be little and solid as she confronts the creature. (This image is all over the internet, but I cannot seem to find the author’s name, or I would gladly give credit. I would like to see more work by this artist.)

In recent years, my most difficult dreams have been those disturbing anxiety dreams where I can’t find my classroom or I am totally unprepared or I can’t find clothes that fit. It’s been years since I had one of those dreams that wakes you up, paralyzed and sweating, unable to move anything but your eyeballs, months since I have had one of the ones that leave me with disturbing, haunting images that I can’t get out of the back of my head.  This morning, I woke up with an adrenaline shot and a searing image from one of those.

Isn’t that the funny thing about dreams? The lovely ones, the weird ones, the ones that feel like they have thoughtful messages–those I need to capture and hold onto with pen and paper the second I open my eyes, or they’re gone like frost crystals in the morning sun, dissipated like a mist. But the ones that pierce and hurt, the images that haunt and ache, that tell you the stories of your deepest, most panicky fears–those live on like a bad smell, like a poison ivy rash.

I know last night’s dream had messages for me. I used every technique I could think of to erase the image, and it isn’t holding such power over me as it did in the panicky moment of waking, though it’s still there, lurking. Now is the time to look back at it from this slightly safer distance and ask it what it wants to tell me. I am Little Red Riding Hood talking to the Wolf, Vassilissa in the house of Baba Yaga.

Gratitude List:
1. The gentle and fierce ones, the compassionate and powerful ones, the wise ones–so many people I know who work directly with people and communities who have experienced trauma, to explore and understand it, to help people seek for their inner resilience and to heal. These people I know, they work in education–both in the US and internationally, they develop social services to break cycles of trauma across generations, they make songs and music, they write poems, they tell their stories and the stories of others, they listen.  How they listen! And they ask questions. They hold a big, big bowl. You probably know some of these people, too. Let’s stand around them and help them hold the bowl of stories that they carry.
2. History. How we live into it today, wear it like a scarf over the clothes of this moment. Not just our own personal history, but deep history, the history of our ancestors, our nations, our idealistic and philosophical and spiritual pathways.
3. The Sermon on the Mount. That’s revolutionary stuff. I keep coming back to it, seeing it with fresh eyes. One of my favorite poems. One of my favorite spiritual growth essays. One of my favorite revolutionary treatises. It’s all in there.
4. Butterflies! Everywhere. They’re just everywhere. Monarchs flit along the highways and down the River. The swallowtails drift across the hollow all day long. I wish I could see a residual image of their pathways. I bet they’ve flown an intricate dreamcatcher across our life here, a web. (Perhaps it was that dream catcher that caught this morning’s fearsome nightmare before it could settle too deeply.)
5. Cooler days are coming.  Which is a thinly veiled complaint about the current heat. It bothers me so much more than it used to. So I will live with the happy thought of cool autumn days and chilly nights with a warm quilt.

May we walk in Beauty, ever ancient, ever new.